HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A 10-year-old girl testified at Circuit Court Thursday that she felt "scared and nervous" when a photographer allegedly pressed his groin area against her during picture taking at school last year.
The girl took the witness stand after the prosecution and the defense delivered opening statements to the jury in the case against Gerard Mueden, 32. The defendant is charged with two counts of third-degree sexual assault.
"The defendant violated the innocence of two young children," Thalia Murphy, deputy prosecutor, said. "The defendant in this case was a complete stranger to the two children."
Mueden is accused of touching the girl and a 10-year-old boy inappropriately while positioning them to be photographed at Lehua Elementary on September 22, 2009. He was one of six employees from the House of Photography who were at the school that day to take individual and class photos.
"Did the photographer do something to you that you didn't like?" the prosecutor asked the girl.
"Yes," she replied from the stand.
The girl testified that the photographer pressed himself against her left knee as she sat on a stool.
"He said that he was going to fix my hair," she said.
"Did the photographer have enough room to fix your hair without pressing his private against you?" Murphy asked.
"Yes," the child replied.
But defense attorney Myron Takemoto described his client as a hard-working professional, who never faced any complaints in eight years of working for the House of Photography. He says it's simply a case of rumors being spread by children.
"Rumors on the school yard during recess, rumors that continued on the school bus," Takemoto said. "Rumors that were heard by the two complaining witnesses in this case."
The defense says no one in the cafeteria or on the stage, where the photos were being taken, reported seeing any sexual contact.
"Mr. Mueden supposedly just stopped, took the photo and waved the next person in," Takemoto said. "In other words, the next person was standing right there."
The defendant is accused of running his hands up the boy's thighs and touching the child's groin area.
"He was frustrated. He was mad," Murphy said about the boy. "But he didn't say anything, members of the jury, because he was worried that no one would believe him."
Third-degree sex assault is a class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
The trial continues Friday.