Rape trial begins in Belmont County
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The rape trial of Greg Carter began Wednesday before Belmont County Common Pleas Judge Frank Fregiato.
Carter, 53, of Lot 64 Banfield Road, St. Clairsville is accused of five counts of first-degree felony rape, allegedly occurring between Jan. 1, 2017 and May 2020.
The jury will decide on the truthfulness of the testimony. Both the victims and the defendant will be taking the stand.
In his opening argument, Belmont County Prosecutor Kevin Flanagan said this was a repeated process of victimization over years, beginning in West Virginia and then in Martins Ferry.
“Greg Carter took advantage of two children. Two girls that were left in his care and custody … ,” he said, adding that the two sisters kept the alleged crimes secret until 2020 during a visit to their biological father. The father’s girlfriend reportedly noticed something wrong and spoke to the girls. Flanagan said the disclosures were unplanned and unexpected.
Flanagan also said sexual assault nurse examiner Leslie Doerfler from Southeastern Ohio Medical Center in Cambridge, Ohio, will “debunk the myth” that first-time sexual assault always results in a damaged hymen. He said the jury will also hear graphic testimony from the girls.
“What we are going to do is ask them to recount the most horrific thing that has ever happened to them and be able to convey that to you,” Flanagan said. “He is guilty of horrendous acts.”
Defense attorney Donald Tennant said his case will be based on cross-examination of witnesses and analysis of evidence.
“(Carter’s) in the fight of his life. This is a horrific thing to be accused of,” Tennant said. “If you have a doubt, you must acquit.”
He said the burden of proof is on the prosecution.
“We have no duty, for example, to prove why these two girls … have come up with this story that’s very consistent between the two of them, and why they told the story at the time that they told it,” Tennant said. “Mr. Carter will testify that he did not do any of this. This is all a fictitious story that’s been mixed up by these two young girls for one reason or another.”
Tennant said after the disclosure, both girls were able to move to better circumstances.
“They got more favorable arrangements with respect to their living,” he said. “You can’t allow what I call the echo chamber to be the overriding strength of your decision-making. … Just because multiple people say the same thing doesn’t mean it’s true.”
He said one of the girls has said the rapes occurred more than 50 times, but both medical examinations revealed both girls’ hymens are intact and pointed out that the girls gave no specific dates. He said the mother also has doubts about the story.
“The defense is going to present Mr. Carter, and your duty here is you’re going to have to judge: Do you believe (Carter), or do you believe these two girls?”
He also had disparaging words for the prosecution process.
“All the other witnesses that will appear are essentially witnesses in the prosecution industry. They’re all well-known. They appear in every prosecutor of these types of cases in this region. Harmony House, the nurse, the detective, they’re all part of the industry of bringing these cases,” Tennant said.
Tennant began by objecting to Doerfler’s status as a witness, saying she conducts forensic examinations not medical exams. Fregiato overruled.
Tennant argued that Doerfler’s testimony should be considered hearsay. Flanagan argued this was not the case, since an exception is made for medical examinations.
Doerfler testified she has examined hundreds of sexual assault victims and described the scope of her duties. She said she collaborated with a medical doctor on the case.
“Your intent in a forensic exam is to gather evidence for the judicial process, correct?” Tennant asked.
“My intent is to do a head-to-toe exam, to educate my patients and to provide referrals as needed for them,” Doerfler said.
Tennant continued to question Doerfler as to what extent her examination of the girls was to provide medical services and to what extent served a forensic purpose for prosecution.
“Your forensic exam is to determine an evaluation to present testimony or evidence to the proper governmental authorities, correct?” Tennant said.
“The purpose of my exam is for the health and well-being of these patients,” Doerfler replied.
The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. today at the courthouse in St. Clairsville.