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Child witnesses told to testify in rape

FORT PIERCE _ Convicted rapist Lucio John Salas wants a new trial and new witnesses _ two children who watched as he raped their mother at knifepoint. The rape victim and her husband say they will go to jail before they allow their children to testify.

And they might.

A judge has ordered that the children must testify, and an appeals court has upheld his ruling.

Assistant State Attorney David Morgan said the youngsters, who were 4 and 12 at the time of the attack, were horrified by the incident and would be traumatized if forced to relive it.

"This is nothing more than an extension of Salas' original crime," Morgan said. "Rape is a crime of dominance and violence, and that's exactly what Salas is doing with this motion.

"He's getting off on watching the family squirm."

Salas is serving a life sentence. He is seeking a new trial on the grounds that his original attorneys erred by not taking statements from the children.

The girl watched as her mother was raped. The son ran from the house and called police during the attack Nov. 1, 1985.

The parents have agreed to let their son be interviewed in Salas' absence, but they refused to allow their daughter to give a deposition, preferring to face contempt of court charges.

"Their feeling at this point is that they'd rather go to jail than have the children testify," said State Attorney Bruce Colton.

Defense attorney Ernon Sidaway III said Wednesday that the children's testimony is crucial to determining whether his client is the man who attacked the Fort Pierce woman.

In the original case, the son was interviewed briefly for trial, but the daughter's comments to a detective were paraphrased in the courtroom, Sidaway said.

In the appeal, Circuit Judge Charles Smith last year ordered the children's depositions, and the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld the ruling.

"We're hoping that the judge will reconsider his opinion," Colton said, adding that subpoenas will be delivered to the children within the next few weeks.

After that, lawyers will seek a protective order, and experts will testify about possible harm to the children.

The judge apologized repeatedly for ordering the interviews but said it is a defendant's right to have the evidence laid out before him.

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