Update: No verdict yet in Roy Harriger trial
ALBION – The jury has been sent home for the weekend after failing to reach a verdict in the trial against Roy Harriger, a former pastor in Lyndonville who is accused of molesting three of his grandchildren.
The grandchildren testified against Harriger, 71, on Wednesday, alleging he performed sexual acts on them and forced the kids, when they were 5 to 7 years old, to perform acts on him.
Harriger’s attorney Larry Koss said the claims are not true. He said one of Harriger’s sons, George Harriger, has orchestrated the claims against the elder Harriger. Both George and his brother Robert testified they were abused by Harriger.
“George says he was abused as a child and then he takes his children there,” Koss told the jury during closing arguments today. “Either his moral system is so degraded or it never happened to him.”
Koss implored the jury to “examine the proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
District Attorney Joe Cardone said Harriger’s grandchildren, including one who is in the military, all detailed the abuse from their grandfather. They said they weren’t coerced into testifying, as Koss suggested.
“Do you really believe someone made these kids come up with all this stuff?” Cardone told the jury.
Cardone said Harriger used his position of power to silence his victims for years.
“There has been a wake of destruction caused by this defendant,” Cardone said. “He is a man who puts himself before anyone else in his family.”
Cardone noted the case has split the family with many on one side of the courtroom and others, including Harriger’s church supporters, on the other side.
“Look at the divisiveness this man has caused,” Cardone said.
Harriger was the pastor at Ashwood Wesleyan Church in Lyndonville when the alleged abuse occurred in 2000 and 2001. After leaving Ashwood in 2009, he started a new church in Hartland, Community Fellowship Church, where he continues as a pastor.
Harriger faced charges of incest and course of sexual conduct, the latter charge means the crime lasted more than 3 months.
Orleans County Court Judge James Punch this morning dismissed the incest charges. Harriger faces the more serious charges, which carry a maximum of 25 years in prison.
Koss told the jury there is no way to prove the crime, if it occurred, lasted more than 3 months. Because the charges were brought long after the alleged incidents, Koss also said Harriger was denied the chance to offer an alibi.
The defense attorney said the layout of the Harriger house in 2001 and 2001, the church parsonage, didn’t offer privacy for Harriger to commit his alleged crimes. The house was also busy, with people over all of the time, Koss said.
“Jurors, apply common sense and see if the whole story makes sense,” Koss said. “I submit to you it doesn’t.”
Koss acknowledged the Harriger family is “dysfunctional.”
“You’re talking about personalities,” Koss said. “Look at those personalities.”
During his testimony on Thursday, Harriger denied any inappropriate sexual contact with his grandchildren, his two sons and one of his daughters, as was alleged. He denied any sexual relationships outside his marriage, and he denied Cardone’s claim that Harriger has an illegitimate daughter in Pennsylvania.
Cardone said the grandchildren admired their grandfather, who was a leader in the church and family. After he committed the alleged crimes, he would tell them, “You don’t talk about this,” Cardone said.
On Wednesday, the three grandchildren, now all about age 20, testified about the alleged crimes.
“The dysfunction has been going on in this family for generations,” Cardone said. “Thank God they’ve had the strength to come to you to put an end to it and it ends right here.”
Judge Punch told the jury they are not to talk about the case over the weekend, or follow any of the news reports about the case.
“You’re going to have to go into a media blackout,” the judge said. “If you’re on Facebook, just stay off of it for the weekend.”