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Jurors to continue deliberations in Croghan man’s rape trial

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LOWVILLE — Jurors will continue deliberations today in the third trial of a Croghan man accused of raping a teenage girl.

Lewis County Judge Daniel R. King dismissed jurors Thursday afternoon after they had deliberated for about a half-hour, according to Assistant District Attorney Caleb J. Petzoldt, who is prosecuting the case.

An 11-woman, one-man jury for the past two weeks has heard testimony in the case of Kurt J. Hazzard, 41, of 6835 Mechanic St., Croghan, who is charged with three counts of first-degree rape, two counts of third-degree rape, four counts of endangering the welfare of a child and single counts of second-degree rape and first- and third-degree criminal sex act.

He was arrested by state police in early January 2012 on accusations that he had sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of 17 by forcible compulsion on occasions in August, November and December 2011 and sexual contact with another underage girl on one occasion.

Hazzard remains free on $10,000 bail.

An initial trial in December was scrapped due to a lack of available jurors, and in March a problem with a member of the second jury caused Judge King to declare a mistrial out of concern that the entire panel could be contaminated.

During closing statements Thursday, defense attorney Paul G. Carey insinuated that the “atrocious allegations” may have been part of a smear campaign to influence child-custody arrangements.

He questioned the credibility of the alleged victims, suggesting their answers were rehearsed until he was able to cross-examine them.

Mr. Carey also suggested that police failed to conduct a meticulous search of the scene of the final alleged rape when they began their investigation several days later. “Thorough investigation is so important in a case,” he said.

The defense attorney tried to discredit evidence of a towel purportedly containing DNA of both Hazzard and the girl, noting that police did not find it during their initial investigation and received it a few days later from family members of the alleged victim.

“How can you not have reasonable doubts in this case?” he said.

Mr. Petzoldt countered that the alleged victim’s testimony alone, told in great detail, should be sufficient.

“You’re in a position where you’re going to have to determine credibility,” he told jurors.

The girl was the “only person who backs up her claim” by indicating that Hazzard’s DNA would be found on the towel, providing physical evidence, Mr. Petzoldt said.

He also disputed the defense argument that the allegations are part of a concocted scheme, suggesting that those involved could have “come up with a better story” had it all been fabricated.

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