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Contrasting Images Given of Defendant in Sex Case

Courts: Defense calls former Palmdale official Kevin Carney a man of 'good moral character.' Prosecutors say he molested four girls.

October 25, 2000|CAITLIN LIU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He may have been a pillar of his community. But Kevin Wright Carney, the former Palmdale councilman, former school board president and onetime sheriff's sergeant, had a hidden, more insidious side to him, prosecutors contended Tuesday.

"The man is a child molester," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Steve Katz during closing arguments at Carney's trial in a downtown courtroom on multiple charges of child molestation. The prosecutor asked jurors to confront the difficult "realization that a man, a grown man, could get sexual satisfaction from the body of a child."

But Carney's defense attorney, Milton Grimes, told jurors that his client is a man of "good moral character" and that the four children who testified that he had molested them were liars.

Looking over the jury of five women and seven men and then glancing at Carney's wife, daughter, two sons, brother and son-in-law in the courtroom audience, Grimes said: "I want you to say, 'Kevin Carney, go home with your family. You're a free man.' "

Carney, 49, is charged with 16 counts of sex offenses involving children, including continuous sexual abuse, lewd conduct and unlawful intercourse. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

During the trial, four girls testified that Carney had molested them. The allegations of two, now 10 and 11 years old, arose in 1997 when Carney was campaigning for mayor of Palmdale, an election he lost.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department investigated the matter, and charges were not filed until 1999 when another girl, now 15, told authorities a few days before a City Council election--which Carney won--that he had molested her repeatedly over eight years, from inappropriate touching to rape. Carney has resigned from his council seat.

On Tuesday, the prosecution argued that evidence of Carney's guilt was overwhelming.

The 15-year-old had a complicated relationship with Carney, who was like a father to her, Katz said. Carney drove her to and from school, bought her things, treated her to ice cream and took her to see movies. But he also molested her, the prosecutor said.

The girl told no one about the abuse at first because she felt conflicted, Katz said, adding: "She loved this man, because this man was good for her, notwithstanding the molestations."

Carney eventually raped the girl in his truck Oct. 28 of last year, Katz said, and evidence included physical injuries indicating rape.

The fourth girl testified that she was molested once when she climbed into Carney's sleeping bag during a camping trip. Two girls living in Carney's Palmdale neighborhood, the two who are now 10 and 11, told jurors that he molested them on multiple occasions while they were in his house playing with his pet turtles.

But the children's tales are full of inconsistencies, Grimes contended.

The two neighbor children provided contradicting accounts of their molestations, according to Carney's defense. One girl said she was alone while the other said the two were together.

As for the girl from the camping trip, Grimes argued that Carney, who in the past has weighed more than 300 pounds, could not have done what she alleged. "I don't think a sleeping bag . . . gives you that liberty," the attorney said.

The 15-year-old's story at the time she reported the alleged crime contradicted her court testimony in some details, Grimes said. And he contended that her physical injuries were caused by a teenage boy, who testified at the trial that he and the girl had sexual relations a few days before the alleged rape.

The girl "ain't no 14-year-old mama's innocent," said Grimes, referring to her age at the time of the alleged rape. "This is a case of credibility. Whom do you believe?"

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