Opening remarks and testimony began this morning before a Miller County jury tasked with deciding if a local man is guilty of child sexual abuse.
Jared Allen Harper, 34, was romantically involved with the alleged victim’s mother before the allegations of abuse surfaced in 2015. Harper is the father of the girl’s two younger half brothers.
In opening statements Tuesday morning, Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Black told the jury that the girl first disclosed Harper’s repeated abuse of her to her older brother, who is now 17. Black said the girl gave a detailed account of the abuse to a forensic interviewer at the Children’s Advocacy Center in March 2015 but later recanted the allegations because of pressure from her mother. Black told the jury the girl’s mother told the girl that if Harper goes to prison the family will lose the child support he pays for her younger siblings and the family will be, “forced to live in a sleazy hotel where you will get raped every night.”
Harper’s defense team, Jason Horton of Texarkana and Jeffrey Rosenzweig of Little Rock, said the girl’s allegations are based on her desire to remove Harper from her family’s lives. Horton described for the jury the girl’s history of alleging abuse and recanting it and then realleging the crimes as lies started by her older brother. Horton said the brother and alleged victim concocted the abuse allegations so that their mother would have no trouble maintaining custody of their two younger half brothers when it became clear their relationship was in trouble.
The brother denied fabricating his sister’s outcry of abuse to him in March 2015, under questioning from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell. The alleged victim has not yet taken the stand.
Harper is charged with rape, sexual indecency with a child and second-degree sexual assault. Second-degree sexual assault is punishable by five to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000. Indecency is punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. Rape is punishable by 10 to 40 years or life.