VALPARAISO — A Portage man, who has sat in jail for the past three years without bond, was acquitted Thursday morning on four counts of child molesting after it was discovered one of the two purported victims made up at least part of the accusations and the prosecutor did not share that information with the defense.
Porter Superior Court Judge Bill Alexa ordered 39-year-old Eric Knowles released immediately from jail on his own recognizance while awaiting disposition of a final molestation count involving a third child.
Alexa also said he is referring the matter involving Deputy Prosecutor Trista Hudson to the Indiana Supreme Court's Disciplinary Commission for an ethical review. Hudson also serves on the Valparaiso City Council.
Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel issued a statement following the acquittal that says in part, "The lapse was inadvertent and the State accepts the Court's ruling."
Defense attorney Larry Rogers said he discovered one of the purported victims lied, at least in part, while he was questioning the 12-year-old boy Wednesday on the witness stand.
The boy admitted his father told him to falsely accuse Knowles of the worst of the sex acts against him, Rogers said. The boy went on to say he revealed this to prosecutors and police last week, Rogers said, and a detective in the case confirmed that later in the day while testifying.
Hudson, who was trying the case along with Portage police Detective Cpl. Janis Regnier, responded Thursday morning by offering to dismiss the more serious of the two charges involving the boy or have the court drop the boy from the case altogether and proceed just with the case involving the girl.
Alexa responded that prosecutors should have dismissed the charges involving the boy before the trial began Monday.
Hudson also suggested that Rogers could have questioned the children before trial, but Alexa rebuffed that suggestion saying it was not the answer.
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Alexa called into question a further accusation by the boy that Knowles forced him and the girl to have sex.
"Was that truth or was that a lie?" the judge asked.
The girl testified Tuesday she never saw Knowles sexually abuse the boy and the boy never told her about being abused by Knowles.
Alexa said there is no way the witnesses in this case — the two children — could be brought back again in a way to assure a fair trial for Knowles.
Alexa said he was "displeased" and found it "distasteful" that he was put in the situation of having to respond to the discovery.
When Knowles thanked him for the acquittal, Alexa chastised him and said it was not being done for him.
"It's for our system," he said.
Knowles has been held without bond after he was accused of molesting four different children. A jury found him not guilty in one of the cases in August and Alexa scheduled a Nov. 28 trial, and Sept. 30 and Oct. 21 hearings in the final case.
Alexa explained as he dismissed the jury the acquittal makes no determination of Knowles' guilt, but he cannot be retried on the charges.