Deliberations in Mallo case will resume Friday

REED CITY — Jurors will return to Osceola County’s 49th Circuit Court today in hopes of reaching a verdict in the criminal sexual conduct case against Francis Brent Mallo.

After a few hours of deliberations Thursday, Judge Ron Nichols sent the jury home for the evening to reconvene in the morning and continue discussions.

Mallo is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. His accuser, a girl sent to live in a home in Evart the Mallo family ran for troubled girls, claimed Mallo had sexually assaulted her in her bedroom on multiple occassions between 2009 and 2010.

The alleged victim, now 17, was the sole witness for the prosecution. She testified all day Wednesday, and when the trial picked back up Thursday morning, Osceola County Prosecutor Tyler Thompson rested his case.

Mallo’s attorney, Lisa Kirsch Satawa, has argued throughout the trial the alleged victim had a history of lying.

In her closing argument, Kirsch Satawa listed the various times the victim has discussed the allegations with police or in court proceedings. Each time things changes, Kirsch Satawa said.

“There were 10 different times and what did she say next? Ten different versions,” she said. “It’s not real. It’s not true. It didn’t happen.”

But Thompson saw it differently.

“She didn’t lie,” he told the jury. “What you saw were the different chapters of her story.”

The girl, who was adopted from the Ukraine by a family in Florida, was sent to live with the Mallos because of behavioral issues. To demonstrate these issues, the first witness called by the defense was Teresa Guerard, a mental health counselor in Florida who worked with the victim and her adoptive family.

Guerard appeared before the court via Polycom, a video calling system. She testified to conducting an assessment on the alleged victim and determined she had reactive attachment disorder.

She explained one of the characteristics of this diagnosis is having trouble with honesty and telling the truth. Kirsch Satawa presented a document the victim had signed in the presence of Guerard, which was a behavioral agreement drafted by the girl’s adoptive mother.

The document was a piece of evidence submitted in the trial. Guerard testified the paper was discussed before it was signed by the girl and she was not coerced to sign it.

“And the issues in the document, did she admit they were true?” Kirsch Satawa asked.

“Yes, she did,” Guerard testified.

After leaving the Mallo home and since the allegations were made in 2010, the victim has since been adopted by a new family.

Her mother, who she lives with now, took the stand and was asked by Kirsch Satawa about the victim’s ability to distinguish what was real and if she had trouble with the concept when she first arrived in her care.

The woman, who will not be named in order to not identify the victim in this case, stated the girl was a traumatized child. Kirsch Satawa persisted, looking for either a yes or no answer.

When Nichols instructed the woman to answer with yes or no, she finally said yes.

On cross examination, Thompson asked if the girl has a difficult time distinguishing reality now.

“No,” she answered.

Also testifying on Thursday were two of the girls who lived in the home with the alleged victim during the time she claims to have been assaulted. Both girls testifed there always was a female staff member present at the home.

One of those staff workers was Alexis Custer, Mallo’s daughter, who also took the stand. She told the court she lived and worked in the house, making meals, caring for and supervising the girls.

Mallo was never alone working with the girls, and she reiterated a woman staff member was there at all times — morning, afternoon and evening.

Mallo was acquitted on separate charges in June in another case, where he was charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. That victim claimed Mallo sexually assaulted her multiple times in the 1990s when she worked as a babysitter for Mallo’s children.

Deliberations will continue at 9 a.m. today in Osceola County’s 49th Circuit Court.