Editor’s note: Testimony of the second child witness follows. If you have the strength, try to imagine yourself on the witness stand, in this girl’s shoes. Please see the special box at the end of this piece, and post a note of encouragement to the victims in the Comments.
The smallest victim was forced to describe incestuous rape to the very men who violated her, Timothy and Esten Ciboro, her father and half-brother. Naturally they tried to discredit the 9-year-old. The men built their defense around an anti-government conspiracy theory. Esten’s opening statement earlier in the week predicted “false testimony:”
“You will see how the primary victims being held by child traffickers, the trauma inflicted at the hands of their current caregivers, and the detectives’ leading questions produced the false testimony given by the children in this case.”
Of course, this tinfoil-hat defense does not explain why the oldest victim fled the house to begin with.
According to a reporter, the smallest victim testified that the Ciboro men forced her to have sex “nearly every night of the week.” The courtroom ordeal—the harrowing memories and the Ciboros’ erratic behavior—brought her feelings to the surface:
The young girl cried as she told the court how she was inappropriately touched by Timothy and Esten.
The men are acting as their own lawyers. They spent hours on Wednesday questioning the 9-year-old victim and were periodically cut off by Judge Linda Jennings.
“Sit down Mr. Ciboro,” said Judge Linda Jennings.
“Can the document be shown to the witness?” asked Esten.
“It depends on what it is,” replied Judge Jennings.
“It’s a letter,” said Esten.
“No, wait. Let’s do a sidebar and look at it,” said Judge Jennings.
It must have been horrifying for the 9-year-old to face questions like this one, posed by the father who raped her. In this exchange, Timothy referred to himself in the third person (child’s replies come from transcription printed on the video):
Timothy: “I’m very sad that your dad put his penis in you. Did he ever put it anywhere else besides your mouth?”
Nine-year-old girl: “Yes.”
Timothy: “Where at?”
Nine-year-old girl: “In my front… and back, my private parts and my butt.”
This question, too, was jarring (remember, this witness is the half-sister of the girl who ran away in May 2016):
“Why did [the oldest victim] have to wear handcuffs in the bathroom?” Timothy asked the 9-year-old.
“I don’t know,” she replied. “You guys made that up for some reason, and the reason, I do not know.”
In the midst of the little girl’s testimony, Timothy suddenly interrupted to ask the judge if he could fire his shadow counsel, John Thebes, “for lack of help.” This would have stripped witnesses of a small measure of protection from the Ciboros. Judge Linda Jennings called yet another sidebar and ruled against the request.
Both defendants attempted to defeat legal safeguards. The three children who were removed from the Ciboro house last May are in foster care, and the men are barred from contacting them. Nevertheless:
Timothy repeatedly tried to ask the little girl where her brother was living. Prosecutors objected, and Timothy was told he could not ask the question.
The father/rapist hinted that his daughter had been influenced by Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Reed to lie about being raped. He appeared confused (or perhaps feigned confusion) about the identity of Reed, who was sitting at the table next to his:
“Oh, so the first time you ever brought up someone touching you was to Miss… Is that Miss Reed? Is that… Are you Miss Jennifer? […] How long ago was that?”
“The punishments he gave us, the point system that wasn’t fair, and that he would have sex with me.”
Next: The boy drops a bombshell
Let’s try to encourage these children! In future they might go online to learn about coverage of the case. They deserve to find messages of support.
Please write a note to the Ciboros’ three young victims (two girls and a boy) in the Comments below. We will compile notes into a special post. Feel free to express your pride, hopes for their future, and other kind thoughts. We would like to have notes from as many readers as possible. (NLQ will not reach out directly to the children, who appear to be well protected and in touch with loving relatives.)
Propinqua is the Latin word for neighboring or nearby (singular feminine adjective). It is used in law and philosophy, and in the scientific names of plants and animals, such as the native bee Osmia lignaria propinqua.
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