By Samantha Pidde
Herald Staff Writer
CLINTON — A Clinton man has been convicted of 67 counts connected with the sexual abuse and exploitation of a little girl.
The jury deliberated for approximately an hour and a half Wednesday afternoon before finding Jason Boutwell, 33, guilty of seven charges of second-degree sexual abuse, a Class B felony, and 60 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, production, a Class C felony. His sentencing is set for 9 a.m. April 10.
The State maintained throughout the trial, which began Monday, that between February 2006 and January 2012, the defendant engaged in sexual contact with a child under the age of 12 at least seven times and that he had the victim engage in sex acts or pose nude or provocatively for the purpose of being photographed.
“Her relationship with Jason Boutwell was one of trust, one of thinking of him as a father,” Assistant Clinton County Attorney Ross Barlow said in his closing statement. “The reality was that he was using (the victim’s) trust to abuse her.”
More than 60 contraband photos discovered on a computer used by Boutwell were entered into evidence Tuesday and the 12-year-old victim testified about the abuse she sustained at the hand of Boutwell. She identified each of the photographs as featuring herself and told the court that Boutwell is the other person in many of the photos.
Wednesday morning, Boutwell took the stand and denied that he sexually abused and photographed his former girlfriend’s daughter, who at one time called him Dad. His attorney, Bruce Ingham, asked Boutwell why the victim identified him as her abuser in court Thursday if he was not guilty.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Boutwell said.
Boutwell told the court that he considered the girl his daughter and tried to treat her the same as the two sons he has with her mother. He spent time with her and drove her to school. He also created a decorative door trim for her bedroom, much like he did for her brothers.
In his closing argument, Ingham said Boutwell was the least likely perpetrator in the abuse.
However, Barlow argued that the defendant, who by his own admission was with the victim on a daily basis, is actually the most likely to have perpetrated this crime. He continued that Boutwell was the only male with opportunity at the time, who the victim trusted as a father. Barlow also pointed out that what can be seen of the male body in the explicit photographs of the victim does match the defendant’s basic body type.
“Mr. Ingham said he does not have the answer to why (the victim) said Mr. Boutwell did it. Well the reason is because he did do it,” Barlow said.
In cross examination, Barlow asked Boutwell about a plastic covering on the home’s windows. Boutwell told the court that the victim’s mother asked he put them in to keep in the cool air. However, in one of his two closing statements, Barlow offered another reason for the coverings.
“He didn’t want people to see what he was doing to (the victim),” Barlow said.
The defense tried to show that other men could have been in the house with the victim. In his testimony, Boutwell indicated that he eventually learned the alleged victim’s mother had other male friends visit and stay the night when he was not there. Ingham said in his closing statement that perhaps one of them abused the girl.
“I submit there was a revolving door for men in that home,” Ingham said.
However, Barlow dismissed that idea in his second closing statement. He asked the jurors to consider how many men they may have in their home for one reason or another. He also added that it had not been definitely proven that these men were in relationships with the victim’s mother.
Barlow countered that many homes have people coming and going. He argued that did not mean Boutwell was innocent.
“There are guys who come into my house all the time, that doesn’t mean they’re sexually abusing my daughter,” Barlow said. “What Mr. Boutwell wants you to think is that there is reasonable doubt.”
The State spent much of the trial establishing that Boutwell used a “guest computer” that was found to contain the more than 60 contraband photos of the victim. State witnesses testified to discovering resumes with the defendant’s name, programs and games he admitted to downloading and more than a hundred anime and henti photos. Boutwell testified that he does enjoy Japanese anime and produces anime art of his own, but denies recognizing some of the images admitted into evidence by the State.
In his testimony, Boutwell said he had the password to the computer in question, but said the password was simply in his former girlfriend’s name. He added that the computer did not always require the password. Ingham asked his client if he had much knowledge about computers.
“I have an understanding of them,” Boutwell said.
Boutwell also confirmed for Ingham that he knows deleting pictures or files from a computer does not remove them entirely. He listed techniques for erasing files from a system, such as removing and replacing the hard drive, putting a magnet on it or creating large image files to take up the space. Barlow asked if Boutwell ever used any of these techniques.
“I never had a need to,” Boutwell said.
Ingham asked the jurors why the defendant would not have utilized one of these methods if he was trying to destroy the evidence. He implied this showed that Boutwell had no knowledge of the photographs.
In response, Barlow asked jurors if they ever quickly hid or deleted a Christmas list or similar document on their computers to prevent a family member from seeing it. He further asked them if they ever thought that loved one would search through deleted files to find it. He said Boutwell never guessed police and forensic experts would get possession of the computer.
“Typically, deleting something, people in your home aren’t going to see it,” Barlow said.
Tuesday, the victim testified that Boutwell did know the photographs were on the computer. She told the court that she saw one of the photographs when he was looking at it.
“As she lay in her bedroom, she could see one of the naked photos of her on that computer and Jason Boutwell manipulated it, making in bigger and smaller,” Barlow said in his closing argument.
Barlow told the jurors to remember these pornographic images, as well as the victim’s testimony that it was Boutwell who took them and did the acts depicted in them.
“They’re snapshots or glimpses into what happened to (the victim),” Barlow said.
The sexual abuse charges could carry as much as 25 years in prison each and the sexual exploitation charges could each carry as much as 10 years. If ordered to serve all the sentences consecutively, Boutwell could serve as much as 775 years in prison.