Judge asked to bar testimony

2011-05-10T10:59:00Z 2013-01-19T17:09:05Z Judge asked to bar testimonyBy Bob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | Another attempt is being made to prevent a 20-year-old man with Down syndrome from testifying against the caregiver charged with sexually abusing him.

Defense attorney Bob Harper has filed a motion arguing the young man's disability interferes with his ability to relate what happened to him.

Harper said any statements taken from the man were the result of leading questions.

Harper plans to have an expert witness testify during a hearing at 1:30 p.m. Friday before Porter Superior Judge Bill Alexa that the purported victim's disability denies the accused, Michael Ritchie, his right to cross examination.

Harper also planned to file a motion ahead of Friday's hearing asking Alexa to reconsider his finding in November the purported victim is competent to testify. Alexa said at the time there was no medical evidence to the contrary.

Ritchie, 59, is accused of fondling and performing other sex acts on the man, who lived at a group home operated by InPact Inc. in the 3100 block of Heavilin Road.

The grandmother said her grandson was a resident of the home from 2004 to July 2009, during which time she became uncomfortable with Ritchie taking boys on trips and doing other things without other caregivers being present.

Police spoke to the grandson and he stated he and another resident of the group home played "Santa Claus" -- the name that was used for the sex act -- in Ritchie's office.

Ritchie told police he worked with InPact for 20 years -- managing a group home for five males ages 15 to 20 --  but he denied anything sexual occurred.

A trial is scheduled for June 13.

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