CLINTON — A Clinton County jury is deliberating today as it decides whether a Clinton man is guilty of any of the four counts of sex abuse filed against him in connection with a teen’s claim she was assaulted in Eagle Point Park in August 2005.

Robert Armstrong, 43, is accused of two counts of second-degree sex abuse, which each carry a possible 25-year prison term upon conviction, and two counts of third-degree sex abuse, which each carry a penalty of 10 years in prison. The jury will decide if he is guilty of all of them, any of them, a lesser included offense, such as assault with intent to commit sex abuse or assault, or if he is not guilty. The jury has been instructed it must find him not guilty if the evidence does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crimes.

His brother, Michael W. Armstrong, 40, pleaded guilty last month to two counts of sex abuse for his involvement.

He last week was sentenced to up to 15 years in prison — a sentence that includes a 10-year prison term and a five-year term that will be served consecutively.

Wednesday marked the third day of Robert Armstrong’s trial. It began with a two-hour delay as the court waited for testimony from a Clinton County Jail inmate who said he knows the alleged victim, who was 15 on the date of the alleged attack and now is 17.

He said he ran into the girl while walking on a Clinton street in late June or early July and asked her if she was OK because he’d heard she’d been raped. The inmate, Justin Mitchell, knew the girl because she’d dated a friend of his in the past. He told the court the alleged victim told him she had not been raped and was in a relationship with Michael Armstrong.

Mitchell said the teen told him Robert had driven her up to Eagle Point Park and then left. Mitchell said the teen claimed “We (she and Michael) was up there handling our business,” and that Robert wasn’t there.

Mitchell, who since has been arrested a couple of times, said he heard Robert Armstrong talking about his case while he was incarcerated. He said after hearing the story, he remembered what the alleged victim told him and passed it along to Robert. He said Robert’s attorney, Jay Sommers, then approached Mitchell about what he allegedly had heard.

First Assistant Clinton County Attorney Ross Barlow asked Mitchell why he didn’t tell police as soon as the alleged victim talked to him. He said he didn’t call police because it didn’t have anything to do with him.

Robert Armstrong was the defense’s only other witness to take the stand Wednesday.

Armstrong explained how he had worked at McDonald’s from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 7, 2005, then left work to get some beer. He went home and then to his mother’s Clinton home, where many of his relatives had gathered after church. He said he was there about 11/2 hours when he and Michael decided to leave to play basketball, but instead decided to drink beer in the park.

“We were riding by the park near (Central) fire station,” he said, adding Michael saw the alleged victim and started waving at her. Robert drove around the block and went down the alley near Hass Food Market. He said the girl was waving her arms to get the vehicle to stop. The girl walked up to the passenger side, he said. There was some conversation between Michael and the girl and she got into the backseat.

Robert said the group made a couple more stops — at Hass’ to get some cigarettes and then at the Sunny Mart so the men could use the bathroom. They then drove to Eagle Point Park and parked near the castle. Robert said he got out of the car, Michael got out and the girl asked if she could smoke a marijuana cigarette in the car. Robert said he told her no because the car belonged to his longtime girlfriend.

He then opened the trunk, pulled out a chair and sat down, he said. The plan was to have a few beers and relax. Michael raised the seat so the girl could get out and she then asked where she was supposed to sit. So Robert got up, he said, and got back in the car to listen to the radio and drink some beer. He said he doesn’t think he even finished the one beer, although they were at the park for a couple hours.

Robert also said he was dealing with multiple cell phone calls from his girlfriend, who said Michael needed to bring diapers to his wife for their baby.

The last time she called she asked Robert where he was and when he was coming home. That was about 5 or 6 p.m., he said. He said Michael and the girl were affectionate and hugging up on each other. He said he had wanted to talk to Michael and perhaps persuade him to get back together with his wife, but that conversation didn’t happen.

“I told them let’s go, I’m ready to go,” he told the court.

Robert said he then packed up his chair, got in his car and took off, but had second thoughts because his brother would have a long walk home. He drove back through the park to pick up Michael. He said Michael and the girl got back in his car and he took the girl home, arriving at her home about 8 p.m. He said when the girl got back in his car she had grass and leaves in her hair but her clothes were not torn.

Robert said the next day, he had a phone message from a Clinton police officer and was told police wanted to talk to him about a girl who had been in his car.

“What he said didn’t make sense,” he testified.

Robert went to the police station the morning of Aug. 8, 2005, taking Michael with him.

“If you’re going to talk to me, you’re going to talk to him too,” he said of his reasoning for picking up his brother.

In court Wednesday, Robert emphatically denied touching the teen, saying the girl was with his brother.

“I never put my hands on (the victim) at all,” he said. “I’ve got a 7-year-old daughter and I don’t need none of that stuff. I had no contact with (the victim) at all.”

But Barlow questioned Robert as to how the men got in that situation. He pointed out they had beer, marijuana was smoked, Robert liked hanging out with Michael because he had the power to pull women, they had a box of condoms that Michael allegedly brought but Robert admitted to handling after it fell on the ground and they had a 15-year-old girl with them.

However, Robert said he didn’t touch the girl because she was with Michael. He also said he didn’t ask the girl how old she was; he assumed she was at least 20.

“If I had known she was 15, I wouldn’t have let her in my car,” he said.

At one point, he added, “He’s old enough to take care of himself, and I assumed she was.”

After the defense rested at 2:05 p.m., Barlow again called the alleged victim to the stand. She said she knows Mitchell but that the conversation with him never happened.

Mitchell could not give a date when they allegedly talked but said it was around 1:30 p.m. The girl said that couldn’t have happened because she was in a prayer group most days around that time. She then would go home and study her Bible.

She also said she was not smoking marijuana the day of the attack because she was undergoing treatment at New Directions because of a previous possession of marijuana charge. She also denied that Michael Armstrong was her boyfriend.

After jury instructions were read and the four charges detailed, Barlow explained the jury must decide whether there was a forced sex act and if Robert committed one himself or aided and abetted someone else to commit one. Those incidents would fall under the second-degree charge.

Under the third-degree sex abuse charge, even if any sex was consensual, it would be illegal for the contact because the girl was 15 at the time and the men are more than four years older than her. If Robert aided and abetted consensual sex between the girl and another person, he also would be guilty.

The case went to the jury at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, with the jury sent home about 5 p.m. Deliberations resumed this morning in Clinton County District Court.

The charges, allegations

Robert Armstrong, 43, is charged with four counts of sex abuse in connection with the case in which he is accused of the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl in Clinton’s Eagle Point Park.

The alleged victim has claimed she met up with Robert and his brother, Michael, as she was in a hurry to get home in the late afternoon of Aug. 7, 2005.

She said she was near Hass Food Market in the 100 block of South Second Street when the brothers agreed to give her a ride to her home six blocks away. She said on the witness stand that she barely knew one of the brothers and the other one she did not know at all.

She said the men drove her directly to Eagle Point Park in Clinton, stopping the car in view of the castle. They gave her beer and told her she could not go home until she completed a sex act with Robert. She said a chair was placed by the car and Robert leaned against her. The chair then tipped over.

She says she tried to run away and ran into the woods yelling for help. She has said she was dragged by the brothers, ended up on the ground and was pinned down by the brothers. She said she was raped by Michael in the woods.

She said she left the park on foot and when she reached First Avenue and Third Street, she saw a van belonging to a man who had her baby-sit children in his care many times. They got into his van and she told him what happened. He drove her the three blocks to her home and the police were called. An ambulance was summoned to the scene and she was examined at the hospital.

Evidence collected at the scene included a torn condom, two condom wrappers, the teen’s underwear, beer cans and two different cigarette packages consistent with the brand of cigarettes the men smoke. A later search of the area produced a used condom, a condom box, an empty 18-pack carton of Busch Light and empty beer cans.

On Tuesday, DCI Criminalist Erica Ng told the court DNA tests link Michael Armstrong to the crime; those tests included analyzing swabs taken at Mercy North Hospital the night of Aug. 7, 2005, and sent to the DCI. Tests on the girl’s underwear also showed Michael Armstrong’s DNA was on them. None of the evidence has contained DNA belonging to Robert Armstrong.

This Week's Circulars