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Warren County dance teacher’s sex-abuse conviction overturned

Thursday, December 20, 2012
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— Longtime dance instructor Timothy McGuire will get another chance to refute child molestation accusations after a state appeals court overturned his conviction on the grounds of procedural errors that occurred during his trial last year.

Justices with the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court ruled a juror’s answers during the selection process for the trial were vague and could have suggested he had a bias against homosexuals. McGuire’s attorney tried unsuccessfully to remove the man from the panel by reason of this bias, prompting the Appellate Division to toss out the verdict reached at the October 2011 trial.

“Although the juror stated that he was ‘not judging homosexuals’ and did not ‘have anything against homosexuality,’ his previous answers may have indicated otherwise,” Justice William McCarthy wrote in the decision issued Thursday. “In light of this ambiguity and potential bias in a case where a male dance teacher was accused of sexually abusing a male student, the burden was on County Court to ask additional questions to ‘obtain unequivocal assurances of impartiality from this juror.’ ”

The justices also found Warren County Court Judge John Hall Jr. didn’t properly respond to a juror’s question after the first day of deliberations. The juror had asked what would happen in the case if they didn’t come up with a unanimous verdict, to which Hall immediately responded with additional instructions without first consulting the attorneys in the case.

Cynthia Feathers, McGuire’s attorney in the appeal, did not return calls, but Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said she is confident she will again be able to obtain a conviction. She lamented, however, that she’ll have to put the victim — now 20 years-old — though another trial.

“It’s obviously very hard for a victim to go through it again,” she said Thursday after the ruling was released.

McGuire, who has remained incarcerated since his April 2011 arrest, was convicted of felony sexual conduct against a child and misdemeanor sexual abuse. He was ordered to serve as many as five years in prison, as well as 10 years’ post-release supervision, at his sentencing in December 2011.

McGuire was a dance instructor and family friend of the victim, who was 6 when the abuse allegedly started. The abuse continued for nearly a decade, according to investigators.

Ten other alleged victims came forward following McGuire’s arrest — many of them students between the 1970s and the 2000s — but the statute of limitations had expired on those allegations, meaning McGuire could not be prosecuted.

 
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