Prosectors seek to allow boy in rape case to testify more privately

Miami County Common Pleas Court Judge Christopher Gee on Wednesday scheduled a Friday hearing to discuss the prosecution’s motion to clear the courtroom of “non-essential personnel” when the boy testifies next week in the case against Jason M. Zwick.

Alternatively, the prosecution has asked the court to allow the boy to testify via closed-circuit television if the judge rules against clearing the courtroom. The estimated four-day trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday morning.

Zwick, 30, was indicted on three felony charges of raping a minor younger than 13 years old who is one of the adopted sons of Troy’s Kenneth H. Brandt, 40, between Jan. 1 and Feb. 24. Investigators said Zwick answered an ad on Craigslist that Brandt posted about the availability of such activity.

In a court filing, assistant prosecutor Tony Kendell said the doctor who has been treating the boy wrote that it was extremely difficult for the boy to discuss the alleged acts during the privacy of a therapy session.

Kendell wrote the child “has been subjected to unimaginable abuse” and that his therapist said any undue questioning, “especially by strangers representing his molester, is likely to be highly detrimental to his emotional and psychological well-being.”

“Requiring this youngster to testify in an open courtroom about these acts is likely to cause significant and severe psychological harm to this child and may result in a deterioration of his psychological status,” the doctor wrote in a letter to the court.

In a document asking the court to force the prosecution to give the alleged victim’s address to the defense for a pre-trial interview, Zwick’s attorney Joe Stadnicar wrote: “If the child is (too) fragile to meet with Defendant’s counsel, with appropriate monitoring by the State, will the victim be able to give competent testimony at trial, where he will be subject to cross-examination by defense counsel.”

During Wednesday’s proceedings, Judge Gee ruled against the defense’s motion for the child’s address, saying the state had “good reason” not to disclose that information. Gee said the defense could ask the county’s children’s services officials for an interview. Prosecutors said children’s services can deny that request.

Gee also ruled that the prosecution must provide the defense counsel (but not Zwick) with Montgomery County’s competency evaluation of Brandt, whom the prosecution has identified as an “essential witness.”

Brandt faces 31 counts of rape against his adopted children in Miami County and seven rape or complicity to commit rape counts in Montgomery County, where he was found competent to stand trial.

Whether or not clearing the courtroom of “non-essential personnel” would include media members is among the items to be discussed on Friday, according to prosecutors. Zwick waived the right to attend Friday’s hearing.

A report from the investigation by the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force said Zwick told an undercover detective, who was posing as the father of two boys, that he had just met a man who had allowed him to have a sexual encounter with his juvenile son.

Troy police records report that the boy told investigators that he remembered the night he met Zwick and the activities that took place.

The investigation led to the arrests of Zwick, Brandt and Dayton’s Patrick Rieder, 32. Rieder faces four counts of rape in Montgomery County and 49 counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor.

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