BELFAST, Maine — A former Searsport Elementary School music teacher said he was sick, overmedicated on prescription cough syrup and deeply distressed when he wrongly confessed to a police detective two years ago that he had sexually abused a 12-year-old girl.
He also said the girl who accused him controlled his household and that he was afraid of her.
William Wiley, 41, who now lives in Palermo, took the stand Tuesday afternoon in his jury trial for child sex abuse at Waldo County District Court. He has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of unlawful sexual contact and one count of gross sexual assault.
According to the victim and prosecutors, the abuse occurred almost nightly over a period of roughly six months in 2004, when the victim was a family member living in his home.
Wiley had a ready answer when his attorney asked him about specific times that Wiley admitted guilt during a videotaped, three-hour interview with a police detective on April 15, 2009.
“I was in very rough shape that day. If you could have scripted the worst day of your life, that would be it,” Wiley said. “I was trying to give [the detective]] what he wanted so he would leave my family alone.”
But when Waldo County Assistant District Attorney Eric Walker cross-examined Wiley, Walker sounded skeptical as he read aloud from portions of the interview’s transcript.
The prosecutor asked the defendant how Wiley could say he understood how someone living under the same roof could do something like that to someone.
“Can you explain this to me?” Walker asked Wiley on Tuesday.
“Sir, I don’t know if I can,” Wiley responded.
Walker also expressed his doubts that Wiley would make a false admission of sexual abuse, even under strain.
“You simply confessed about molesting [the victim] to basically let your family alone?” he asked. “You could not have simply said, ‘I am not talking to you,’ and left?”
But earlier that day, Wiley’s defense attorney, Steven Peterson, argued that in his client’s condition, Wiley was not capable of simply deciding to leave the long and very emotional interview.
On Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, the jury watched and listened to recordings of that interview, which occurred shortly before Wiley was placed under arrest. Wiley sobbed through much of it and at one point dropped to the floor and apparently writhed in anguish.
Wiley was not read the Miranda warning and, although he asked for a friend and at one point asked whether he should have an attorney present, Waldo County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jason Bosco didn’t pursue those options, Peterson said.
The attorney also told the jury that Bosco laid out two options for Wiley — option A was to talk to him about what the victim said had happened, and option B was not to talk and to go to jail.
“Those were the two options you gave him,” Peterson said to Bosco during cross-examination. “What about option C — let’s take a break and do this again on another day?”
After the cross-examination was finished, the jurors were dismissed for a break, and Peterson asked Justice Ann Murray for a judgment of acquittal of the the gross sexual assault charge, which she did not grant.
“The state has not offered any evidence whatsoever that there was genital-to-genital contact,” he said. “Her evidence on that contact was so convoluted and so unbelievable” that it should be dismissed.
On Monday, the now-20-year-old victim testified about the alleged sexual abuse, and on Tuesday, Wiley refuted almost everything she had said.
She said that the abuse began with kissing, escalated to inappropriate fondling and ended when he tried to have sex with her. At that point, she told him to stop or she would tell her mother. She said she didn’t tell anyone for years, until she shared her story with a boyfriend and then others in 2009.
After her mother found out, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and police were notified.
During key portions of his testimony Tuesday, about a dozen of Wiley’s family members and friends sat on one side of the gallery, murmuring their support.
On the other side of the room, three people who appeared to be there in support of the victim — who was not in the courtroom Tuesday — shook their heads in disagreement as he vigorously denied her allegations of sexual wrongdoing.
During his testimony, Wiley painted a picture of a tense household, and said the victim had been defiant for years.
“[The victim] was the master of the house,” he said. “She became, over time, the one that ruled over all of us.”
Walker questioned this statement.
“Can you explain it to me, as a father, as a teacher for 20 years, how you let a 12-year-old manipulate you so you make false confessions about sexually abusing her?” he asked.
“I did it because of the stress I was under and the medication I was on,” Wiley responded. “I did not touch [the victim] inappropriately, period.”
Later, the defense called several witnesses to talk about Wiley’s good reputation in the community as a longtime school music teacher who started a popular music theater program, and also as a dedicated family man. The witnesses included his sister, a former social worker with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, parents of former students, and a neighbor.
“He was always respectful and always honest,” said Mary Vasiliauskas of Searsport, the mother of three former students of Wiley’s.
Joel Ploszaj, a parent who became Wiley’s friend, said much the same thing.
“I have never heard anything negative,” he said. “It was always positive. Everything Bill did was positive.”
Both the prosecution and the defense rested their cases Tuesday and will give their closing statements Wednesday morning, after which the 10-woman, five-man jury will begin deliberations.