Jury selected, opening statements given in Mallo trial

REED CITY — After a lengthy jury selection process, opening statements were given on Tuesday to begin the trial for Francis Brent Mallo.

Addressing the jury first, Osceola County Prosecutor Tyler Thompson said Mallo stole the victim's innocence by sexually assaulting her. But, Mallo's attorney, Lisa Kirsch Satawa, maintained the allegations against her client are false and not credible.

Mallo, of Loudon, Tenn., formerly of Evart, is charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct stemming from incidents that allegedly took place in the early 1990s in the Evart area when the victim was 11 and 12 years old. During this time, Mallo was a house parent at Pineview Home for children.

Thompson stated while the victim was babysitting for Mallo, he came home and began touching the victim. This progressed into a sexual assault, which occurred again multiple times in a one-year span as Mallo intimidated and threatened the victim.

"The defendant, seated right there, repeatedly over the course of a year, violated the innocence of (the victim) by making her engage in sexual intercourse," Thompson said.

Thompson told the jury he intends to call a second victim who alleges Mallo assaulted her in a similar manner.

This second victim is the victim in a separate case against Mallo. In that case, Mallo is charged with three counts of first-degree CSC, which involve a minor child who resided in Mallo’s former home in Evart, with the incidents allegedly taking place between April 2009 and February 2010. That trial has not yet been scheduled.

In her opening statement to the jury, Kirsch Satawa argued the evidence will show the victim's story is unbelievable and unreliable.

The victim's story will not fit, Kirsch Satawa said.

"She's educated, articulate and attractive, but that doesn't make her believable and the evidence will not be believable," she said.

The opening statements were given late Tuesday afternoon after a jury was finalized. Numerous potential jurors had been excused over the course of two days during jury selection, for reasons such as relationships with the defendant or witnesses and past life experiences.

With the trial scheduled for five days and two of those having been used largely for jury selection, Judge Scott Hill-Kennedy suggested opening statements be given Tuesday and testimony begin on Wednesday.

Both the defense and prosecution wanted to wait to deliver opening statements until Wednesday, but Hill-Kennedy ultimately decided in the interest of time to move forward and have both sides give their short opening statements.

"I normally would not want to put time between the opening statements and the first witnesses' testimony, but believing we will be pressed for time I think we should strike while we can to get these matters done," Hill-Kennedy said.

The exhaustive jury selection process began on Monday for Mallo’s trial, with the prosecution and defense both vetting potential jurors to work toward a final jury.

In the initial selection for a jury pool, 125 residents were selected to report for court. Of those, a handful were excused prior to Monday and many more were excused during the selection process.

By the end of the selection process on Tuesday, only about 20 potential jurors were left in the audience before both sides settled on the 14 who were seated in the jury box.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. today in Osceola County's 77th District Court. The victim is expected to take the stand as the first witness to testify for the prosecution.