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Boy accuses Forest Grove man inappropriate touching in sex-abuse caseman

COURTESY PHOTO: WASHINGTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE - STEVEN DOUGLAS ROCKETTA dapper 12-year-old in a Nike T-shirt and black jacket took the stand Wednesday, March 4, to accuse Steven Rockett of touching him inappropriately. He’s the youngest of the alleged victims in the child-molestation case against Rockett, 46, of Forest Grove.

The boy described an incident where he was upstairs at the Rockett home alone, playing pool. Rockett joined the boy and began to teach him how to shoot, standing behind and pressing his stomach against the boy, who also stated that Rockett compared using the pool stick as being similar to masturbating.

In another instance, when the boy was in the bathroom getting ready to take a shower, he said, Rockett entered the bathroom and gave him a towel.  He waited for Rockett to leave, but instead, Rockett asked what the boy was doing. “I’m waiting for you to get out,” he said. Then Rockett “walked over and pulled my pants down,” he said. It seemed like five minutes, he said, before he entered the shower and Rockett left, telling him not to tell his parents.

The boy said he interpreted that instruction as a threat and feared Rockett until he was arrested, at which point he told his father about the abuse and related another incident where Rockett was with him at a swimming pool and grabbed his genital area over his swimming suit.

Defense Attorney Richard Cohen questioned the boy repeatedly about where exactly Rockett touched him until the boy began to appear frustrated and his father abruptly left the courtroom.

“Your dad gets pretty emotional, doesn’t he?” Cohen asked the boy.

“Well yeah, I’m his kid,” the boy responded.

During this exchange, Rockett sat with his hand across his mouth and chin, showing no emotion. But that changed when his own two sons were called to testify. The brothers told the court that they knew the alleged victims but had never seen them show any fear of Rockett.

As his oldest son finished testifying, Rockett began to wipe away tears.  When his youngest son took the stand, both Rockett and the boy were in tears.

Rockett’s mother also testified. When asked if it would have been OK with her if Steven were alone with a child in a bathroom, she indicated not unless there was a problem like a splinter that needed to be removed.

The case continued Wednesday with Washington County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Erwin acquitting Rockett of unlawful sexual penetration in the first degree, based on testimony from the four alleged victims.

Prosecutors spent much of the day focusing on computers and other electronic equipment that was seized from Rockett's home by forensic experts with various law enforcement agencies. No criminal evidence was found on the laptop belonging to Rockett’s employer, Synopsis.

But a tower computer in his home office contained two partially encrypted hard-drives that neither the Oregon State Police, the Beaverton Police nor the FBI were able to decode, even after battering the drives with “brute-force attacks” 24 hours a day for about a month, said Detective Michael Hanada, a forensics examiner with the Beaverton Police Department.

Rockett used the Stealth Encryptor and DriveCrypt programs to hide nearly 2.7 million photographs between March and August 2013, Hanada said. While police were able to notice the presence of the photos and to count them, they were unable to view them.

According to Hanada, encryption differs from password protection, which simply prohibits or controls access to a certain part of a computer. Encryption programs actually change the data into an unreadable pattern that can only be made readable again through special “encryption keys” that belong to the program’s owner.

March 2 testimony

In a videotaped interview presented to jurors Monday morning, a then-10-year-old boy wearing a Nike hoodie described the life of a normal child: playing sports and video games and enjoying PE and math classes.

Then the conversation, coordinated by a CARES NW (Child Abuse Research Education & Service) team, turned to a pair of incidents — one in which Steven Rockett allegedly took a shower in the same bathroom as the child and was staring at him. “I felt really uncomfortable,” said the boy.

Rockett, 46, of Forest Grove, is on trial for child sex abuse in Washington County Circuit Court, accused of molesting at least three underage girls and one underage boy.

“We were playing pool and he was saying like really weird stuff," the boy said in the interview.

“I was shooting [pool] and he was like, ‘Are you a boy?’ [and] then he touched me,” said the child, who later used dolls to show Rockett grabbing his private areas from the front, and how Rockett had leaned up against his back.

Washington County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Erwin allowed Washington County Sheriff’s Det. Robert Rookhuyzen to be called out of order for the defense due to a timing issue. He testified that after a previous arrest in Sacramento, Calif., involving multiple counts of child sex abuse — including taking photos of children nude — Rockett sent a suicide letter to the victim, who then became uncooperative.

Due to the loss of the witness, charges in that case were dropped. In addition, there was an investigation in Washington County stemming from multiple parents complaining Rockett had provided electronics and cash to boys in an attempt to groom them for sex.

In one case, Rockett was accused of “daring a neighborhood boy to flash a camera in exchange for beef jerky,” Rookhuyzen said.

The rest of the day was filled with testimony from the parents of the 10-year-old.  The father, himself a sexual-abuse victim, testified that when asked, his son initially said he had not been touched inappropriately.

One day, however, the father was alone with him after a sports event and related that when he was young, he had been sexually abused.

"Was it the first time you told your son?" asked the prosecutor.  

"It was the first time I told anybody."

At that point, the boy disclosed that he had been touched by Rockett. 

Both parents related that Rockett had high-end camera equipment, and took photos at nearly every baseball game. 

The child was scheduled to testify Tuesday.

Ex-wife says defendant a good father

Facebook messages took center stage in the case against Rockett last Friday in Hillsboro.

Rockett faces 15 counts related to the sexual abuse of four children. Charges include second-degree rape, second-degree sodomy, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, first-degree sex abuse and using a child in a display of sexual conduct.

The alleged abuse dates back to 2009. A police investigation into Rockett's activities began in 2013.

Evidence includes transcripts of Facebook messages between one of the alleged female victims, who is now 18, and Rockett.

In that messaging, the female, then 12, discussed the replacement of an iPhone Rockett had provided for her but had been stolen. At one point, Rockett insists she “work off” the new phone, asking her to take pictures of herself when she goes to take a shower.

In a video shown to jurors of police interviews with Rockett, an off-camera detective says, “You talk specifically how you want her to take pictures of herself in the shower: ‘Use the one in the bathroom hold the camera high up to get the full pictures.’”

“I don’t think I’d seen them in person since I gave her the phone,” replies Rockett, referring to the girl and her older and younger sisters. He explains he wanted to see “how much she’s grown and changed.”

“Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?” the off-camera officer presses. “She’s in the bathroom with no clothes on.”

In the Facebook messages, Rockett explains that to earn back the phone the girl will have to spend the night and come over to work. The girl responds, “I’ll just go without [a phone]. I don’t want to do that stuff again. I have nightmares and I cry myself to sleep a lot.”

In the video of the interview, Rockett attempts to explain that the girl's parents, former family friends whose children came to live with Rockett six years ago in Aloha, were spendthrifts who gambled away their money. The father, he says, jumped from job to job, got caught in the economic downturn and was unable to find a new position in 2009. Rockett told the court the father made $250,000 per year when he was in the tech industry, but “him and his wife burned right through it.”

Rockett's ex-wife, 35-year-old Christine (Rockett) Jumaoas said she met Rockett in the Philippines. She said he was a good father to their own two sons.

But speaking at times through an interpreter, Jumaoas told the jury she didn't like the three sisters because they whined.

“I couldn’t handle it. I just let them whine to Steven and they would say things and I don’t know what to believe ... They would say, 'Steven I want this, I want that. Can you buy this, can you buy that?'”

Former Washington County Sheriff’s detective Erika Cox told jurors that in interviews, the middle girl told her she had performed oral sex on Rockett.

Rockett sat stoic during the hearing, unfolding his arms only to put his shaking hand to his mouth and chin when Judge Erwin reversed a pre-trial decision not to allow mention of the hidden camera in the family's hall bathroom. The decision allowed Maloney to inform the jury that Rockett had pleaded guilty Feb. 20 to charges that the camera had been placed in the bathroom for the specific purpose of recording sexual images of a child.

Girls' parents were family friends

According to prosecutors, the investigation into Rockett's activities began in August 2013 after a 14-year-old girl told her mother their longtime family friend had abused her for years.

Last Thursday, Feb. 26, Defense Attorney Richard Cohen presented a narrative in court that in 2009, the teen's family was reeling from job loss, bouncing between Folsom, Calif., Texas and Oregon. The parents realized they needed help, and reached out to a past co-worker of the father's who was then living in Aloha.

Steven Rockett and the father had been employed at Level One Communications in Sacramento, Calif., as designers in the high-tech industry.

Rockett drove to Folsom and picked up two of his friend's girls, taking them to his home for Christmas break. Some time later, the parents asked Rockett to provide a home for their three girls, then 10, 12 and 14. He agreed and the parties drew up a limited power of attorney.

During the period the girls lived with Rockett in Aloha, they saw their mother and father, who were living in Hillsboro, only two times in person. “I didn’t have a car,” explained the mother.

In daily phone calls, the girls complained to their mother that they didn’t like living in the Rockett household. In particular, they disliked the chores and school requirements. But there was more.

"Do you have a memory of the first time Mr. Rockett touched you inappropriately?” Cohen asked the oldest girl, now 20, Thursday afternoon.

“I have not had a clear memory of the first time or a few times afterward, but I do have just the one specific memory,” she replied.

She told the jury about being weighed in her bra and panties, and a photo being taken of a mole. She remembered Rockett "taking pictures of me and attempting to have sex with me in the bathroom in his house in Aloha … he turned on the shower to block the noise.”

During calls home, however, she never mentioned the situation. While she remembers few specifics of being molested, she told Cohen, she did recall being at work one day when her mother called and asked if Rockett had ever touched her.

The young woman answered yes.

"Have you and your sister talked about this?” Cohen asked in court.

No, she said. "We thought it was isolated events. I thought I was the only one, [the middle sister] thought that she was the only one {and the youngest sister] thought she was the only one.

”If I was the only one, I didn’t have to really tell anyone. It didn’t matter what happened to me.”

Cohen asked the woman if her mother had made Rockett into the “bogeyman," using him as a threat: “If you aren’t good we’ll send you back to live with him.”

“Yes,” she responded.

According to the girl and her mother, the abuse came to light in 2013, when the family was living in a Motel 6 with only two beds. The middle child had become obstinate and argumentative. Unable to gain control of the teenager, her frustrated mother said, “How about I just call Steve and see if you can live with [him] again?”

The girl's response floored her mother. “No, I hate him. If you send me there, I will run away.”

What could be so bad? asked her mother.

“He [expletive] raped me!” was the reply.

The youngest daughter then began to cry and said she had been touched by Rockett as well.

Cohen also asked whether the mother might have been upset with Rockett because he contacted the Department of Human Services when she refused to take her children back. The situation led to the family being investigated for not providing proper care of their children.

The mother also agreed that the children were witnesses to the adults drinking too much and instances of domestic violence.

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