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Jury: Pacific University's Mallery not guilty of sex charges

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Throughout his trial on sex abuse charges, Pacific University vice-president Michael Mallery has alternated between staring intently at the jury and taking notes.Pacific University administrator Michael Mallery sighed with relief Tuesday afternoon after a 12-person jury found him not guilty on all five counts of child sex abuse.

The verdict in Washington County Circuit Court came in just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, after both sides presented closing arguments and the defense brought its final witnesses, including the mother of the alleged victims — who are Mallery’s relatives.

A bespectacled Mallery, gold pen in his pocket, remained stoic as he listened to Sarah Haggerty describe the family’s approach to nudity as “very free and open.” She said that when the older child was in fourth grade, she mentioned wanting Mallery to “cover up more,” and that the last time she saw the girls in a hot tub alone with a naked Mallery was 2009.

“When you saw that, did you do anything to stop it?” asked Mallery’s attorney, Richard D. Cohen of the Clackamas firm of Cohen & Coit.

“No, I was not in the hot tub at the time.”

“You observed that conduct, right?” asked Cohen.

“Yes,” replied Haggerty.

“And you didn’t do anything to bring a halt to it, is that right?”

“No.”

Nightmares about zombies

For the past two weeks Mallery, 48, vice president of finance and administration at Pacific University, has been in the courtroom facing trial on five counts of first-degree sex abuse involving family members who are minors. Prosecutors, who dropped two of the counts early in the trial, say two incidents occurred in 2010 and five in 2013. The alleged victims are now ages 11 and 15. 

Mallery was arrested Jan. 21 after a Washington County grand jury returned an indictment on the charges. At his arraignment the next day, he pleaded not-guilty, posted bail and has been living with his brother in Tillamook since then. 

The accusations against Mallery surfaced last spring after the younger relative told her teacher he had touched her inappropriately. The teacher, who testified March 5, said she reported the incident to a counselor at the school, who went to the state Department of Human Services. 

In 2010, police investigated the older relative’s accusations of molestation by Mallery, but the Multnomah County district attorney’s office declined to prosecute.

Witnesses in the high-profile case have included the girls, who have accused Mallery of touching their breasts and pinching their nipples; a number of counselors and psychiatrists; several family members; and Lesley Hallick, president of Pacific University. The final witness was therapist Bridget Gessler of Mind Matters, a child and family psychiatry clinic in Beaverton, recalled in part to cover the topic of the older girl’s nightmares.

“Was there discussion between you and [the older victim] whether [Mallery] had hurt or touched her?” asked Cohen.

Gessler testified the girl “denied that [Mallery] had ever hurt her or touched her but at that time was worrying that he would. She said she was scared of him … he wasn’t mean to her, but she was afraid he was going to do that.”

Cohen inquired if the girl reported dreams or nightmares. “Mostly nightmares about zombies,” Gessler responded. “She also had dreams he would hurt her and touch her.”

“Did [the girl] interconnect those dreams or nightmares to a fear he would hurt her or touch her?”

“Yes.”

Family issues

As Judge Thomas W. Kohl gave the jury instructions Tuesday afternoon, Haggerty entered the courtroom and took a seat in the front row. Nine family members and friends were present to support Mallery. His sister-in-law wept as Senior Deputy District Attorney Kevin Barton presented his closing arguments.

Barton rose and outlined the charges: five counts of sexual abuse in the first degree, two relating to the older child and three relating to the younger child.

“Someone who twists a nipple … that is evidence of a knowing act,” Barton said, insisting the core details of both girls’ testimony had remained consistent throughout the trial, despite conflicting testimony about whether Mallery had touched them over or under their clothing.

“Difference does not equal deception,” Barton told the jury. “Convict him to hold him accountable for what he did. Find him guilty.”

He reminded the jury the older girl had testified she had been “sexually abused for as long as I can remember.”

Cohen, however, implored the jury to remember that the picture Barton tried to draw of the family’s “perfect life” were not true reflections of the case, reminding them the older girl had been in counseling for mental health issues for years.

He argued the girls’ statements had been contaminated by their mother’s manipulation, their own psychological difficulties and the effects of more than 50 interviews about the alleged abuse. He asserted the mother chose therapists who split the family and gave her control.

“If you ever wanted a powerful, powerful example of what alienating influence can do to a child, it was [the older girl’s] statement of ‘I don’t know’ in response to the question ‘Do you love [Mallery]?’ ” Cohen said.

Cohen pointed to what he called “conspiratorial” behavior on the part of the girls and underscored several statements from both children indicating their mother had influenced them in reporting the alleged molestation, pounding on the issue of loyalty conflicts in families.

“Mr. Mallery and I are putting our trust in your judgment,” Cohen told the jury, insisting there was substantial reasonable doubt in the case.

Barton countered by attempting to debunk the defense theory that the alleged victims told untruths during the trial.

“The defense case requires you to believe [the girls] lied to each of the people to whom [they] reported and that [they] lied to the jury during testimony,” Barton told the six men and six women on the jury. “You will have to believe that this case is the product of a vindictive mother … or you can believe [the girls].”

Previous stories detailing last week's trial testimony are on the web at www.fgnewstimes.com.