The jury trial for a Casper man charged with sexually abusing two girls began Monday in Natrona County District Court.
Shaun Kenneth Hamilton faces five sex crime charges.
Prosecutors say Hamilton, 30, raped a 14-year-old girl last January. She reported the assault the day after it occurred. After looking into her case, police reopened a 2009 investigation in which Hamilton was accused of raping another girl, then about 8 years old.
Both girls, now 15 and 14 respectively, took the stand Monday. Prosecutor Kevin Taheri and defense attorney Hampton Young asked the girls questions about their lives and the alleged abuse.
Though the attorneys spoke to the alleged victims by name, the Star-Tribune is not identifying the girls.
Hamilton, who wore a white dress shirt and a gold tie, sat at the defense table. His trial is expected to last four days. Natrona County District Judge Daniel Forgey is overseeing the proceedings.
The jury is made up of nine men and four women, one person being an alternate.
Child sexual abuse cases infrequently go to trial, said Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonigen. More often, prosecutors and defense attorneys reach an agreed-upon sentence as part of a plea deal.
Blonigen is not serving as prosecutor for the trial and was speaking generally about child sex abuse cases.
“It’s a very tough situation for any witness to testify, but to be a child and testify about sexual abuse ... is a very tough situation to be in,” Blonigen said. He noted if attorneys can’t reach an agreement, then the case will go to trial and the victims will testify. “But we don’t want to do it unnecessarily,” he said.
Authorities charged Hamilton in May with one count of first-degree sexual assault, two counts of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor and two counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. He faces up to 190 years in prison if convicted on all counts.
Hamilton was originally set to stand trial in October, but it was postponed for unknown reasons. He was released from jail while he awaited trial.
The first girl reported the rape to a school employee the day after the alleged crime. The employee contacted police, and the girl was interviewed at the Child Advocacy Project. A rape kit was later performed at Wyoming Medical Center.
After learning of the alleged rape, police reopened the 2009 investigation in which Hamilton was accused of raping the other girl. She told police Hamilton touched her inappropriately on several occasions and raped her, with the abuse beginning in 2007.
When interviewed by police, Hamilton denied the allegations.
Taheri, the prosecutor, told jurors during his opening statement that DNA tests linked Hamilton to the January 2014 rape. He said despite there not being DNA evidence available for the 2009 case, he expects to leave the jury “with no reasonable doubt” of Hamilton’s guilt.
Young, the defense attorney, told the jury there are “inconsistencies” in the victim’s statements, though he did not elaborate on what those inconsistencies are.
“I believe you’ll find problems with the prosecution’s theories,” Young said.
He also asked the jury to consider why police chose not to charge Hamilton in 2009.
“These are serious charges,” Young said. “These are awful charges … Shaun Hamilton is horrified that he has been accused of these alleged crimes.”