Parks supervisor found guilty of sex offense
The defendant had two councilmen testify as character witnesses.
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A municipal court jury has found Jerald A. Gordon, park department supervisor, guilty of sexual imposition.
The eight-member jury heard evidence all day Thursday and closing arguments Friday from Anthony J. Farris, assistant prosecutor, and Heidi Hanni Wolff, Gordon's defense attorney.
The jury deliberated 90 minutes and returned its verdict at 2 p.m. Friday in Judge Elizabeth A. Kobly's court.
Gordon, 49, of Scioto Street, lowered his eyes and let out a puff of air when the judge read the verdict.
Sentencing is set for May 5; he faces up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
"I'm very happy," Farris said after court. "It's nice to see [the jury] believed the people involved."
Wolff said she didn't think the evidence was there to support the verdict and believed she had brought out inconsistencies in the witnesses' testimony. Wolff said she will appeal.
The jury found Gordon guilty of improperly touching Mary F. Spell, a part-time laborer with the park department, in January 2002, at Wick Park Pavilion.
The 52-year-old woman said he grabbed her breasts and buttocks and put his tongue in her ear.
Spell said Gordon let go only when Alvin H. White, a co-worker, came down the hall and looked into the pavilion security office when he heard sounds.
By then, one breast was exposed and White saw Gordon clutching Spell from behind, testimony showed.
Based on the accusation, Gordon received a three-day unpaid suspension last December, when the criminal charge was filed.
Farris tore into the defense in his closing argument. The prosecutor said Gordon would have jurors believe that Spell concocted the sexual attack story after he rebuffed her advances and then she managed to get White to go along with the story and commit perjury.
Spell's testimony, Farris said, had "the ring of truth" because of the little details she recalled, such as using alcohol to wipe away Gordon's saliva from her ear. "That's the sort of thing you don't make up," the prosecutor told the jury.
To believe Gordon, the jury would have to disbelieve everything Spell and White testified to under oath, Farris said. "Why, in a million years, would Alvin White lie?"
Farris called the defense version absurd. Recalling a portion of Gordon's testimony, Farris said: "He can't figure out why he got suspended three days? Because he did it!"
The prosecutor suggested that Spell delayed reporting what happened because that's what "a real person" who had just been molested, who wanted to keep her job, who didn't want people to know, would do. Spell waited until April 2002 to report what happened, prompted then by what she perceived as a threat from Gordon.
Wolff, in her closing argument, said she found it strange that Spell told her fianc & eacute;, who works with Gordon's live-in girlfriend's family, about the sexual assault but the fianc & eacute; never did anything. Wolff called Spell's story "convoluted, fabricated and malicious."
Wolff called three character witnesses, Councilman James Fortune, 6th Ward; Councilman Artis Gillam, 1st Ward; and Annie Hall, citywide block watch supervisor. All described Gordon as a truthful and honest man.
Farris said Gordon had "connections" with politicians and could parade them into court. "I don't care if the mayor comes in here," the prosecutor said, it didn't change the truthful testimony of Spell and White.