The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Makris found not guilty

Jury sides with defendant in week long sexual assault trial

 


After almost two and a half hours of jury deliberation, the defendant was found not guilty on both counts in the case of Nebraska vs. George Makris.

Makris, a California man, was charged last summer with first degree sexual assault of a child and third degree sexual assault of a child, both felonies. The defendant was accused of touching his female minor relative in inappropriate ways over the course of multiple years.

In the last day of the trial the defendant took the stand to deny any allegations of sexual abuse between he and his minor relative.

Defense attorney Don Miller asked Makris if he’d ever touched the child inappropriately.

“Absolutely not,” Makris said. “That’s disgusting.”

The defendant became emotional when speaking about the death of his father when Makris was a teenager, and of the alleged victim’s mother, a close relative of his. He vowed to take care of the girl and her brother after their mother’s death.

“[The alleged victim] sought me out and wanted me to pick her up and hold her,” Makris said.

Makris wanted to be in the children’s lives so they would know their mother’s family, Makris said. He stayed in contact with the girl and her brother by phone and came to visit periodically. Makris called to speak with them two or three times per month, he said. Makris confirmed that the girl and her brother sometimes came to California to visit him and occasionally stayed at his home.

When his mother told him about the abuse allegations, before any formal charges were made Makris claimed he was taken aback.

“First of all, I was shocked and appalled and I didn’t know what to say,” Makris said.

Makris admitted that he probably did touch the child in various areas of her body where she claimed he touched her abusively, in the process of tickling and roughhousing.

“I probably did, playing, but not in a nasty manner,” Makris said.

He spoke about the girl’s visits to California and how much she looked forward to them.

“She couldn’t wait to see me,” Makris said.

Makris shared a bed with the alleged victim three times, he said. Nothing inappropriate happened during any of these instances, he claimed. The first time, Makris was playing pool with his brother in Sidney. When Makris returned to his mother’s house where he and the girl were both staying, she was awake and waiting for him in the guest bedroom, where he planned to sleep. The girl fell asleep while they were watching TV.

The second time, Makris again returned to his mother’s house from playing pool and the girl was sleeping in the guest bedroom where he planned to stay. When asked why he didn’t carry the alleged victim upstairs to her own bed, Makris explained the circumstances.

“The stairs are steep and very narrow, I didn’t want to bump her head,” Makris said.

He was adamant that the alleged abuse never occurred.

“I have never done anything to [the alleged victim], with [the alleged victim], that is inappropriate, evil, nasty or mean,” Makris said.

The third time, the girl went to the basement at Makris’s mother’s house to watch TV on the futon with Makris. She then fell asleep and he didn’t want to move her.

Prosecutor and Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub asked Makris if he’d ever kissed the alleged victim on the mouth. Makris admitted that he did kiss her goodbye. Schaub asked Makris if a kiss on the lips between he and his nine-year-old relative might be inappropriate.

“No, I don’t think it’s improper,” Makris said.

Makris denied suggestions that he’d coached his mother in what he say or helped her to prepare notes for the trial.

“I have not talked to her about preparing for this case,” Makris said.

The defense recalled many of Makris’s friends and family, who had testified previously in the case to vouch for his character. They all claimed he was an honest and trustworthy man.

During closing arguments, Schaub accused the defendant of being untruthful. Throughout the trial, Makris claimed that he never wore shorts, the garment the child said he was wearing when the reported abuse took place. Schaub displayed a photo for the jury in which Makris seemed to be wearing shorts, although the defense later suggested that they were swimming trunks.

“Hold him accountable for telling you something that’s not consistent with the evidence,” Schaub said.

He urged the jurors to take into account the defendant’s words, actions and the circumstances surrounding the alleged abuse.

He detailed all the occurrences of alleged inappropriate touching of which the defendant was accused.

“In a case like this, it’s not unusual to try to point the finger at someone else,” Schaub said.

This time, Schaub claimed, the defense tried to place the blame on the investigation and Lieutenant Keith Andrew of the Sidney police department. The defense kept coming back to the fact that the alleged victim disclosed new information at each subsequent interview. This deterred from her credibility, the defense said. The prosecution maintained that delayed disclosure in not uncommon in abuse victims.

“She wasn’t ready to tell,” Schaub said.

Schaub attacked the defense for its practice of asking friends and family if the girl seemed to act differently when the alleged abuse was taking place and if she seemed fearful of Makris. Schaub implied that the defense wanted the jury to think that anyone could tell if a person was a victim of child abuse, by just looking at them. Schaub questioned why the child would put herself through a trial if no abuse occurred.

“Why would you lie about that?” Schaub asked the jury.

No one should blame the girl for failure to remember finite details about circumstances surrounding the abuse, Schaub said. What mattered is that she recalled the important things, he added.

He asked the jury if they could fathom that the girl’s mother was part of a plot to get Makris in trouble.

“Why would these parents go to great lengths for some diabolical conspiracy?” Schaub asked.

Schaub indicated the alleged victim, who was present in the courtroom during closing arguments.

“Does that face look like a child capable of plotting this elaborate act?” Schaub asked.

It’s surprising that any child reports abuse when it could mean being cut off from their entire family, Schaub said. The fact that no one saw the alleged abuse didn’t mean that it didn’t occur, he added.

“It’s a crime of secrecy,” Schaub said. “These folks were not in the room when it happened.”

Schaub urged the jury to find a guilty verdict.

“Hold the defendant accountable,” he said.

During closing arguments defense attorney Don Miller claimed that his client had been falsely accused.

“This case is a case about a man who is absolutely innocent,” Miller said.

If the girl was truthful about the alleged abuse, she would have known some key information, like the kind of underwear the defendant wore, Miller said.

“If that is true, she should know some of those details,” Miller said.

He urged the jury to put aside all sympathy for both parties involved in this case.

“You don’t get to cut her a break because she’s a child,” Miller said.

The girl’s descriptions of what Makris allegedly did to her didn’t make sense, Miller added. This indicated that she had no such experience, Miller claimed.

“[The alleged victim] does not have any knowledge of sexual matters,” he said.

Interviews performed by three separate individuals tainted the girl’s memory, Miller said. She didn’t delay disclosure because she was embarrassed to reveal what she claimed occurred, the abuse just never took place, Miller said. Praise from family for telling her story could have been incentive to invent more abuse stories that weren’t true, he added.

“After each interview, she is praised, she is rewarded,” Miller said.

The child was very eager to please the adults in her life and this exacerbated the problem, he said. The girl invented information for answers during interviews just because an adult asked her a question, Miller said.

“What you have is a really dangerous situation because you have a child that’s trying to satisfy an adult,” Miller said. “If she doesn’t know, she makes it up.”

He also scoffed at claims that Makris had touched the alleged victim’s little sister in his mother’s home as well.

“Do you really believe that any man with the grandma a few feet away would duck into the bathroom and molest a child?” Miller asked the jury.

A trusted relative’s completely innocent roughhousing and tickling were turned into something sinister and evil for no reason, he said. Miller claimed that the prosecution told the girl to use the word “vagina” when on the stand.

“A child is being told what words to use, that is coaching and that cannot stand,” Miller said.

The girl’s lack of emotion on the stand was a sign of untruthfulness, he added. The prosecution countered that the victim had been through many interviews about the alleged abuse before taking the stand, and there was nothing suspicious about her matter-of-fact account.

“Excuse me if she’s not gonna have all the emotion that the defense council was expecting,” Schaub said.

Makris loves the alleged victim and her brother and wanted to make sure they were cared for after their mother’s death, Miller said. Instead he was falsely accused of abuse, he added.

“He’s been vilified and torn down and destroyed,” Miller said.

All the interactions between the defendant and the alleged victim were innocent, he added.

“Simply sharing a bed is no evidence of a crime,” Miller said.

He claimed that the state’s case was not strong enough for conviction. He encouraged the jury to find the defendant not guilty.

“The evidence does not support their case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Miller said

The jury ultimately agreed with Miller.

 

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