LACONIA — The 17-year-old girl who is accusing Eric Grant, the lead singer and namesake of a local country music band, of penetrating her digitally at a New Year's Eve party in 2006 was the first to testify in his trial yesterday.
The alleged victim, who lives in North Monterey County in California, is now a senior in high school. She is Grant's niece. Poised, wearing a black suit and with long, dark blond hair, she spent most of yesterday afternoon telling the 12 members of the jury her recollections of that night.
In front of about 20 of Grant's friends and family who were in the Belknap County Superior Court room yesterday — some of them wearing blue oval buttons that read "TRUTH" — the girl said Grant slipped his hand down the back of her pajamas and put his finger in her while she sat next to him. She said Grant's legs were stretched out on the couch and she was sitting between them.
Under direct examination by Assistant Prosecutor Carley Ahern, the girl told the jury that she "felt violated, it hurt."
During her opening arguments, Ahern had prepared the jury by telling them that "New Year's Eve began a hellish time in which (the victim) kept a secret, believing her family had betrayed her."
"She might not remember what she ate, who was there," Ahern said. "But she'll remember the defendant touched her vagina."
During her testimony the girl recalled she was wearing her pink pajamas and was sitting on an "L" shaped couch next to Grant. She said he reached into her pajama bottoms and put his finger in her. She said she went upstairs to the bathroom and when she wiped herself she saw "streaks of blood."
She said the alleged assault happened before the fireworks she and her family lit off that night.
Grant's lawyer Emily McLaughlin spent most of yesterday afternoon trying to discredit the girl's story by questioning her about different things she told different people after she told her story to her therapist about six years after the alleged incident.
McLaughlin had already presented the jury a family tree and a home video of that night for visual aids during her opening statements to the jury.
The video showed the girl wearing blue jeans and a jacket, playing outside of Grant's home that night. She was waving sparklers and the snippets of the video spanned the hour from 9:34 p.m. until 10:30 p.m.
McLaughlin had told the jurors in her opening arguments they would hear the alleged victim's testimony and find the girl's statements "inconsistent, contradictory, unbelievable, and untrue."
When McLaughlin asked the alleged victim whether she remembered telling certain details to a specific person she often didn't. She admitted that she didn't tell anybody about the alleged assault until she started seeing a therapist nearly six years later and four months after she started therapy.
The girl admitted under cross-examination that she had had some personal problems including failing grades and marijuana use during the time she made her statements — her sophomore year. She said she was having problems with her mother during this time.
She said she didn't remember all the things she told every person who interviewed her — including her therapist, her therapist in the presence of her mother, a California Police Officer, and a Community Action Counselor.
At several points during the cross examination, McLaughlin showed the girl excepts of statements she made and question her as to whether she remembered making them or not. Often, the alleged victim didn't remember making the particular statement.
The alleged victim answered all of McLaughlin's questions — sometimes speaking very softly other times speaking loudly and clearly.
She testified that she told her therapist about the alleged digital penetration when she learned that Grant and his wife (the girl's mother and Eric Grant's wife at the time, Erica, are sisters) had divorced. She said she waited nearly six years in part because she didn't want to be accused of breaking up the family.
McLaughlin also cross examined the girl about the blood in her underwear. She testified yesterday that she didn't remember if she was wearing underwear that night and that she didn't remember what happened to the pink pajamas.
McLaughlin told the jury during her opening arguments that they would hear that no adult who was in the room will testify that they saw the digital rape of an 8-year-old. "At most, they saw a wedgie," she said, telling the jury that the family would later talk of the "wedgie incident."
McLaughlin also told the jury in her opening argument that the girl passed gas in Grant's face and he pushed her away and called her a "stinky butt" and a "fart face" and gave her a wedgie and this likely caused the girl some embarrassment and lasting hurt feelings.
The "wedgie incident" is expected to be the first thing the jury hears today when the trial reconvenes at 10 a.m. and McLaughlin continues her cross examination of the alleged victim.