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West Haven sex abuse trial ends in exoneration

Friday, April 30, 2010

By James Tinley, Register Staff
jtinley@newhavenregister.com

Daniel Velez walked into Superior in Milford Thursday accused of committing vile acts against a child, but walked out a free man, exonerated of all charges against him.

At the end of a four-day trial, a jury deliberated for just two hours Thursday afternoon before finding Velez, 45, of New Haven, innocent of raping a 9-year-old male relative in the boy’s West Haven home.

“The only thing worse than being a child molester is being (falsely) accused of being a child molester,” Velez’s attorney, Richard P. Silverstein of New Haven, told jurors. “The accusations are poison.”

Velez was charged with one count each of first-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor, but was accused of repeatedly raping the child over a six-month period beginning in November 2006.

Velez was arrested in February 2007 after the boy came forward, accusing Velez of sexual assault.

With no physical evidence or eyewitnesses, the case against Velez hinged on the testimony of the now-13-year-old boy. Silverstein picked the testimony apart, pointing out numerous inconsistencies during a taped interview and testimony given in court this week.

At one point during the taped testimony, the boy said he was raped twice, then later said, “No five times.” Later in the interview, he said he was assaulted twice daily.

Assistant State’s Attorney Melanie Cradle admitted there were some fluctuations in the boy’s story, but told jurors the essential facts remained the same.

The boy never wavered about what happened to him, and provided extremely specific and sophisticated details of the alleged sex acts, Cradle said.

Silverstein offered the theory that the boy concocted the story because he wanted to leave his mother’s house to live with his father and accused Velez of rape to make that happen.

Silverstein also brought up how the boy was caught telling an elaborate story to a school official and the state Department of Children and Families about being taken to visit Velez while he was locked up awaiting trial on the sexual assault charges.

He described the visit — which never happened — in vivid detail, only backing down when confronted by his mother.

“He demonstrated he is very capable of telling an elaborate, vicious lie,” Silverstein told the jury in closing arguments.

The accusations split the family and became a three-year ordeal for Velez and his accuser.

“It’s hard,” the boy’s mother said after hearing the verdict. “We knew it could go either direction. We just need to move on now and put it behind us.”

Velez left the courthouse without talking to a reporter. His lawyer said the jury made the right decision.

“I fully realize how difficult it is in these types of cases for the jury to be objective and dispassionate. The fact that they deliberated only two hours, I believed evidenced the weakness of the state’s case,” Silverstein said.

Contact James Tinley at 203-789-5702.