WEST CHESTER — An unusual criminal case that pits two residents of an affluent neighborhood in East Whiteland against one another appears headed for trial in Common Pleas Court, a case that involves unsubstantiated accusations of child sexual abuse, lying to authorities, and retaliation over a civil dispute.
The defendant is a 48-year-old information technology consultant specializing in finance, banking, and insurance, and the father of a middle schooler who was a member of the local Boy Scout troop in the fall of 2020.
The alleged victim is an attorney who was a leader in that troop, who also served on the board of the local youth basketball league and who is a partner in a Philadelphia law firm where he handles personal injury and medical malpractice litigation.
And the case is being prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s Office — which inherited the matter after a Common Pleas judge overruled the decision of the Chester County District Attorney’s Office not to file charges against the defendant for harassment, false reports of child abuse, false reports incriminating others, and retaliation against witnesses or victims — coincidentally by a former top prosecutor in the local D.A.’s Office.
In an abundance of caution, the MediaNews Group has decided to withhold the names of both the defendant and the alleged victim in this report because of the nature of the assault accusations involving the defendant’s 11-year-old son — accusations of sexual assault against a child — even though state and local authorities now believe those claims were made up by the IT consultant as a means to incriminate the attorney and gain revenge against him because of a lawsuit filed over a contentious dispute involving the homeowners association at Malvern Hunt, where both live.
On Thursday, Judge Analisa Sondergaard — who is presiding over the case — heard arguments over whether the attorney should be permitted to testify about the emotional and professional impact that might have befallen him if the consultant’s accusations were accepted by police and he was subsequently convicted of child sexual abuse.
Sondergaard has yet to rule on the request by Senior Deputy Attorney General Thomas Ost-Prisco to introduce the impact testimony, and has set another hearing in the case for September. The defendant’s attorney, Lindsay Jean Killian, has argued that any testimony about that impact would be pure speculation that should be kept from the jury hearing the case.
The case began in December 2020, when the attorney, a resident of Malvern Hunt, filed a private criminal complaint at the District Court in Tredyffrin.
In it, he wrote that in October of that year, the consultant had spoken with leaders of Boy Scout Troop 76 in Frazer and said that the attorney had abused his son, who was 11 years old at the time. According to Ost-Prisco, the alleged assault had supposedly taken place during a car ride from a scouting event when the attorney was alone with the boy.
The first report the consultant made was on Oct. 12. The following day, he sent a letter to one of the troop leaders again making allegations that his son was sexually abused, according to the criminal complaint the attorney filed.
Before taking any action, however, the Boy Scout officials told the consultant that they were mandatory reporters, and would be legally obligated to report the accusations to the state’s ChildLine abuse hotline, which would effectively trigger an investigation by local authorities. The consultant, according to the complaint, did not recant.
After the report was made to ChildLine, the consultant allegedly spoke to an East Whiteland investigator, Detective Sgt. Patricia Doyle, who is experienced in child abuse cases. He again reported the alleged abuse. But when Doyle pressed for details, the consultant asked if he could “take it back,” according to the complaint.
The boy was eventually interviewed by Doyle. During that session, the boy apparently told the detective that nothing inappropriate had ever happened between him and the attorney, especially of a sexual nature. He also testified later that he had never told his father of anything improper happening between the two.
Contacted Friday, Doyle declined comment. No charges were ever filed against the attorney.
At some point, according to the complaint, the consultant told police that the motive for his report of sexual abuse of his son was because the attorney had filed a lawsuit against the Malvern Hunt Homeowners Association, of which he was the president, and that the report was retaliation for doing so. (The suit, filed in September 2020, had to do with association meetings and election procedures the attorney claimed had not been conducted properly. It has since been settled.)
“On multiple occasions, (the consultant) pretended that he and his son would appear for a police interview to provide the authorities with information about the (abuse), all the while knowing that no such information existed,” the attorney wrote in his complaint. “(He) perverted the statewide system of prosecuting sexual predators.”
On Thursday, Ost-Prisco asked Sondergaard to allow him to introduce evidence of what might have happened if the attorney had ever been charged with abusing the boy. He could have face charges of indecent assault and sexual assault by a sports or volunteer, charges that could rise to felonies. Besides facing prison time if convicted, he would also have likely faced disbarment proceedings before the state Disciplinary Board for attorneys.
“The victim would testify about the impact he would face both professionally and personally,” in order to make out the crime of retaliation against witnesses, Ost-Prisco said.
But Killian, appearing with the consultant at the hearing, urged Sondergaard to disallow such testimony from reaching the jury in the trial. She said that there was no way of knowing what might have happened to a case against the attorney because her client had never given specific information to police.
“My client stated that he didn’t know what happened, but that he had concerns,” she said. “We dn’t know what the investigation would have produced. It’s all speculation.” Besides, she said, the county D.A.’s Office never filed charges against the attorney.
Sondergaard appeared to lean towards allowing the prosecution to allow some testimony about the possible impact on the attorney, but said she would “reign it in” and not him to claim wildly that he would have been sent to prison for decades.
The case is listed for trial in August, but will likely be continued until later this year.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.