Judge hears motion to exclude child’s interview in case of man accused of sexual abuse of 5-year-old

5th District Courthouse, St. George, Utah, date not specified | File photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE— A man accused of sexually abusing a 5-year-old girl filed a motion on Tuesday to exclude the child’s interview with police from his upcoming trial. 

Warren Leonard Black, 42, was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child June 2017, after the child described multiple incidents of sexual abuse in an interview with the Washington County Children’s Justice Center.

Black, along with his attorney, Aric Cramer, appeared before 5th District Judge Jeffrey Wilcox on Tuesday afternoon to present an oral argument in support of their motion to exclude the child’s interview with the Children’s Justice Center because her mother felt “compelled” to be there and allow the interview. 

According to the memorandum in support of the motion to suppress the interview, the child’s mother had taken her to the Justice Center to be interviewed on June 27, 2017, but upon arrival, had discovered that no appointment had been scheduled. She told the Justice Center employee that they would leave and come back another time.

The Justice Center employee responded by telling her not to go because police were on their way. After being told that police were coming, the mother felt that she was unable to leave and had to stay for the interview. 

“The mother felt compelled by the indication that police were being called that she was not free to leave and therefore she didn’t leave. And the interview took place against her feelings that that should not have happened,” Cramer said. 

Warren Leonard Black, of St. George, Utah, booking photo posted June 27, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

Cramer argued that because the mother felt coerced, and because a child cannot be interviewed voluntarily without the consent of a parent, that the child was interviewed under coercion and therefore it would be in violation of Black’s Fifth Amendment rights for the interview to be included in the trial. 

Prosecutor Ryan Shaum, representing the state, however, argued that while the mother may have “felt” coerced, she never expressed to anyone that she wanted to leave or that she did not want the interview to proceed. 

“This is all unexpressed thoughts in her mind, never given to the worker or to the law enforcement officer or anyone,” Shaum said. “That does not make the child’s statement unreliable unless we have evidence that that child did express that she did not to be there, that she did not want to be interviewed, and she felt like people were forcing her to talk. That is not the evidence in this case.”

After hearing both arguments, Wilcox denied the motion to exclude the interview from the trial, which was set for Sept. 30-Oct. 4. 

“I don’t have any problem believing the mom’s statement,” Wilcox said, “I just don’t see enough. I don’t think she was coerced.” 

Black was arrested June 27, 2017, after the child relayed during the interview in question multiple incidents in which Black touched her genitals with parts of his body, according to an affidavit in support of his arrest. 

Read more: St. George man arrested for alleged sexual abuse of 5-year-old

During the interview, the child was able to “provide consistent details of the abuse,” the arresting officer wrote in the affidavit. 

Black was booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility and charged with two first-degree felony counts of aggravated sex abuse of a child to which he plead not guilty. 

Black was also arrested in May 2015 for one misdemeanor count of sexual battery for at least two incidents of unlawful sexual contact with a 16-year-old in 2013, according to court documents. 

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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Twitter: @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

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