A jury trial began yesterday in Superior Court in the case against a 38-year-old man accused of fondling a then-12-year-old girl four times on Saipan sometime in 2012.
The alleged victim, who is now 14 years old, was the government’s first witness yesterday in the trial of Carlos Ketebengang.
The victim testified how Ketebengang fondled her breasts four times between August and September 2012.
When Saipan Tribune left the courtroom yesterday afternoon, defense counsel Colin Thompson was still cross-examining the girl.
Ketebengang is on trial for four counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree and four counts of disturbing the peace.
In the government’s opening statements, assistant attorney general Graef Clayton said Ketebengang took advantage of the girl’s vulnerability because the girl’s grandmother was dying in the hospital when the sexual abuse happened.
Clayton said the first incident occurred in the latter part of August 2012 when Ketebengang suddenly grabbed the girl’s right breast while he was fixing her laptop.
Later that day, Clayton said, Ketebengang asked the girl to help him cook a meal in the kitchen, then he bear hugged her and touched her right breast.
In September 2012, Ketebengang asked the girl again to help him cook a meal, then touched her breast under her shirt, the prosecutor said.
Clayton said the defendant again touched the girl’s breasts under her shirt sometime in September 2012 or during her grandmother’s funeral.
The prosecutor said the girl finally gained the courage to speak up about the sexual abuse to a school staff in September 2012.
In the defense’s opening statements, Thompson said the case is all about accusations. He said the girl was inconsistent in her statements to police.
Thompson said he does not believe that the jurors will hear corroborating evidence to support the girl’s statements.
The defense lawyer noted that there is no DNA, fingerprints, photographs or other physical evidence to support the girl’s statements.
“It’s all accusations,” he added.
In her testimony, the girl said the first time Ketebengang touched her breast made her feel very uncomfortable. She said the defendant touched her breast again for about two to three seconds while she was cutting onion in the kitchen.
The girl said the third time, Ketebengang rubbed her right breast for about three to four seconds while she was helping him cook.
She said the fourth incident happened while she was washing her hands in the kitchen, when the defendant squeezed her breast.
The girl said she did not report the incidents because she was scared that Ketebengang’s wife will get mad at her.
She revealed the sexual abuse after a school staff noticed a red mark or a hickey on her neck in September 2012. She then confessed to police that Ketebengang touched her several times in August and September 2012.
Assistant attorney general Chester Hinds is assisting Clayton at the trial. Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho is presiding over the trial.