|Former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim|
Patrick Coyne, his college friend and chief of staff, was a key witness against the mayor.
And credibility will be the key in determining whether or not Coyne is guilty of sexually abusing his former stepdaughter nearly a decade ago.
State Superior Court Judge Elpedio Vitale acknowledged that. John Robert Gulash, Coyne's lawyer, believes that. The prosecution team of Senior Assistant State's Attorney Brian Sibley and Deputy Assistant State's Attorney Adrienne Maciulewski are aware of that.
At issue is the credibility of the now 15-year-old accuser and her mother, a former Bridgeport City Hall intern and Coyne's ex-wife.
Their credibility will be the focus of final summations by the two sides Monday. It also will play a key role in the deliberations of the six jurors Monday afternoon.
Coyne, now 54 and living in Massachusetts, was advised of his right to testify by the judge Friday. He told the judge he would not be testifying.
Coyne is charged with first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor, stemming from an allegation of a one-time sexual assault of his former stepdaughter on a couch in their Hamden living room when she was 5 or 6 years old. That puts the incident in 2003 or 2004.
However, she only reported the incident in 2011. She did so by writing it in a journal and leaving it for her mother to find.
The day of Feb. 4, 2011, became a key piece of evidence Friday when Amy Marshall, the executive director of elementary education in Bridgeport's public schools testified that school was neither closed or delayed that day.
At the time, the girl and her mother were living in Bridgeport. The victim testified she overslept that day and didn't attend school. Because of that, she was struck with a belt by her angry mother, according to trial testimony.
She then left a journal with the allegation in a place for her mother to find.
After the mother found the journal and read the entry, she sought help for her daughter. The Department of Children and Families was called in and filed a report with Bridgeport Police.
Bridgeport Police Detective John Burke forwarded the complaint to Hamden Police after noting the girl alleged the assault occurred when the parties were living in that city.
Coyne was arrested in April 2011 by the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force.
In 2013, the girl was interviewed by Tara Sawhney of the Child and Family Guidance Center in Bridgeport. Sawhney, a social worker and member of the Bridgeport Mobile Crisis team, testified she interviewed both the girl and her mother.
Sawhney recalled the girl telling her she was "sexually abused by her stepfather (Coyne)."
During questioning by Gulash, Sawhney said she also talked to the mother.
"The mom reported that (her daughter) lies a great deal, especially if she is going somewhere ... after school," Sawhney said.
On cross examination by Maciulewski, Sawhney conceded that children tend to suppress memories of traumatic events.
It was in 2003 that Coyne testified in the federal courtroom just two blocks away against Ganim, his boss and former friend. The pair spent the summer of 1979 living in Cape Cod and the next year traveled together on a cross-country trip to Los Angeles.
While serving as Ganim's director of mayoral initiatives in Bridgeport, Coyne oversaw the Clean and Green Program. He pleaded guilty in federal court to mail fraud for approving no-bid inflated contracts to survey and remove asbestos from blighted buildings, most of which were slated for demolition to make way for Bridgeport's Harbor Yard arena and baseball stadium.
The scam cost Bridgeport's taxpayers about $316,000. Coyne's take of the kickbacks was $10,000, according to statements and evidence in federal court.
He was sentenced to three months in prison by Senior U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in 2003. Ganim received a nine-year prison term; he's served his time and is now a paralegal. His application to the bar was turned down.
I suspect the girl is telling the truth, although, not knowing when the relationship between her mother and Coyne ended, it's a bit odd that it never happened again. Lying about what you are doing after school is pretty common for a young teenager. I wonder about other forms of 'acting out'.