Judge convicted of endangering child's welfare

UPDATE: Gerald Liberace, a former Delaware County judge facing child-molestation charges, was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child and corrupting the morals of a minor. He was found not guilty of a charge of indecent assault.

EARLIER:

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Gerald Liberace: A district judge for at least 30 years

"Hang in there buddy." 

That's the advice defense attorney Mark Much just gave his client, former Haverford Judge Gerald Liberace, after the deliberating jury in his child-molestation case returned to the courtroom to ask for a written copy of each of the charges and the associated elements.

Philadelphia Senior Judge John L. Braxton, who is presiding over the case at the Delaware County courthouse, said he would not provide the jury with a written copy of the charges - indecent assault, endangering the welfare of a child and corrupting the morals of a minor - but he did read the charges and their elements aloud again to the jury.

The alleged victim, now 18, claims that Liberace, 69, repeatedly touched her rear end inappropriately as a child and that once, when she was 12 and staying overnight in his care, he rubbed her vagina. Wiretapped conversations between the girl and Liberace have been played in court. During those conversations, Liberace admits to rubbing the girl's bottom but said he never meant anything sexual by it. He never admits to touching her genitals.

My guess is that the jury is having trouble with the first charge, indecent assault. According to the judge, in order to meet the standards of indecent assault, someone must have brought about the touching of parts of the body, including genitals, pubic areas, buttocks or the nipples for the purposes of arousing his or the victim's sexual desires. Liberace is heard on tape admitting to the first part of the charge, which may damn him, but he's also heard saying it wasn't for sexual purposes. The jury will have to decide if the prosecution proved the sexual element beyond a reasonable doubt.

After the jury returned to deliberate, Much counseled Liberace outside of the courtroom and seemed to try to calm his nerves. It was interesting to watch the much-younger Much, a noted criminal defense attorney in Delaware County, console the much-older Liberace, a long-time, Republican district judge, who I'm sure never pictured himself anywhere else in a courtroom but on the bench.

Read my story in today's paper about the closing arguments and the unusual twists the case has taken.

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