Abused regularly from the age of 4 until old enough to fight off her attacker, one of three alleged victims to testify Tuesday gave a graphic account of the sexual attacks allegedly suffered, starting as a preschooler and continuing into puberty.
The trial of Harold B. Cartwright III, 47, of Trenton, began Tuesday. Cartwright faces 28 felony counts related to alleged abuse of three minor girls from 1989 to 2011.
Cartwright was indicted on 11 counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and 16 counts of committing a lewd act upon a child.
“During the course of this trial, you are going to hear more about child abuse than you'd ever want to,” Deputy Solicitor Bill Weeks told a jury on Tuesday. “It's going to be disturbing. I want to prepare you for that.”
The prosecution's opening statement was more of a warning to the jury about what was to come, rather than the framing of facts about to be revealed at trial.
The three victims, the youngest still a minor, recounted the alleged abuse using common and sometimes adolescent terms for the sexual acts. Many of the counts encompass a year of time, as the law differentiates between the seriousness of charges depending on the victim's age.
But the charges contain language that allows for the multiple times acts allegedly occurred in that span of time, stating “at diverse times” during the period listed. The victims alleged abuse happened “almost every day,” “twice a week,” and “three to seven times a week,” over the course of many years, each victim said on the witness stand.
“The indictments are the tip of the iceberg,” Weeks said. “The coercion happened over the lifetime of this child.”
All three also testified that Cartwright would use threats against them after the acts concluded and would also buy them gifts. One victim testified that, as she grew older, Cartwright would attempt to barter cash for sex, but became irate when he was rejected. The defendant was also alleged to have threatened the life of one victim and “busted down” the door of another.
Cartwright's defense focuses on his alleged discovery of pornographic pictures featuring two of the victims. The charges he faces, defense attorney Bob Harte said, are retaliation for Cartwright confronting those girls. The third victim is then alleged to have decided to “jumped on the pile” with her claims, Harte said.
The third victim, however, told authorities in 2001 that Cartwright was sexually abusing her. She testified Tuesday that her mother forced her to recant her story, which she did.
One of the victims has “real anger and reason to get back at” Cartwright, Harte said in his opening statement.
When the victims were asked if child pornography featuring them existed, both said it did not. Cartwright showed one of the victims the pictures he found, according to testimony. The victim said that the pictures were not of her. She further testified that the defendant had claimed to have found pictures of four other girls he knew.
If convicted, Cartwright faces a mandatory minimum of 25 years to life in prison for each count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct; he faces eight counts. Criminal sexual conduct in the second and third degree carry maximums of 20 and 15 years, respectively. The 16 lewd act charges carry maximum sentences of 15 years each.
Editor's note: This version of this story has been updated to correct the counts against the defendant. Harold B. Cartwright III faces 28 felony counts related to alleged abuse of three minor girls from 1989 to 2011.
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