The state and defense rested late Tuesday in the trial of a Texarkana man accused of molesting two girls to whom he is related.
Michael Lee Sweeten, 53, is accused of abusing one alleged victim, now 19, in 2003 and 2004, and of abusing her younger sister, now 15, in 2015. Sweeten took the stand Tuesday and denied the allegations.
Sweeten testified under direct examination by his attorney, Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, that he has been unable to perform sexually since 2002. Sweeten said he has had a stroke and developed severe breathing problems which led doctors to put him on steroids. Sweeten said the steroids caused him to gain about 200 pounds during a three-month period and that his weight has grown to more than 400 pounds. Sweeten is 5’9.
Sweeten gave graphic testimony concerning his physical limitations.
Sweeten testified that he is not very comfortable with children and was not left alone with his accusers as they claimed. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kristian Robertson grilled Sweeten on cross examination.
Both alleged victims testified under questioning from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell that Sweeten would make them sit in his lap in a recliner when the alleged abuse occurred. One of the girls alleged conduct that meets the legal definition of rape.
The younger of the two alleged victims was the first to make an outcry of sexual abuse in 2016. Her older sister came forward after learning that her sister had come forward, the girls testified.
The jury was given instructions by Circuit Judge Brent Haltom to return to the Miller County courthouse Wednesday morning to hear closing arguments. If the jury of six men and six women finds Sweeten guilty, the trial will enter a punishment phase.
If convicted of rape, Sweeten faces 25 to 40 years or life in prison. Each of the four counts of second-degree sexual assault is punishable by five to 20 years. If found guilty of any of the charges Sweeten will be required to register as a sex offender.
The trial is expected to conclude Wednesday.