Witness recalls rumors of sexual abuse in Mallo case

REED CITY  — In the early 1990s there were whispers and rumors about Francis Brent Mallo molesting her daughter, but a witness took the stand on Thursday and testified she chalked it up to gossip. But when the witnesses’ daughter — the victim in the ongoing trial of Mallo  — came forward with allegations last year, she looked back more carefully at the conversations she had with and about her daughter around 1991 and 1992. On the stand, she recalled a time when she asked her daughter if Mallo was molesting her, she testified. At that time, her daughter did not offer an outright denial. “She said, ‘Mama, I’m OK,'” the witness testified. Mallo, of Loudon, Tenn., formerly of Evart, is charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for allegedly assaulting the victim in this case when she was 11 and 12 years old. The girl often worked as a babysitter for Mallo’s children, and claims assaults would occur regularly at multiple locations in Evart. The victim had offered her testimony Wednesday, detailing instances were Mallo had assaulted her. The assaults occurred at the Mallo residence, the victim’s home and also in the Pugsley House at Pineview Home, where both Mallo and the victim’s mother worked. The Pioneer will not name the victim’s mother in an attempt to protect the privacy and identify of the victim in this case. The witness said she asked her daughter about the abuse after being confronted by someone at the girl’s school regarding rumors. She recalled the conversation where an administrator asked if she thought Mallo was molesting her daughter while she babysat. “I said no,” she stated. “And then I asked her what she thought, because she knew him better than I did.” At this point, Osceola County 49th Circuit Judge Scott Hill-Kennedy had to interject that the witness could not testify to what someone else said specifically, as this is hearsay, but could give a general idea of the conversation. One of Mallo’s attorneys, Daisy Benavidez, who is co-counsel with Lisa Kirsch Satawa, proceeded with questioning, but did no go back to discuss the conversation in depth. Much of the defense’s questioning focused on the witness’ employment with Pineview, introducing her application, and later, her resignation into evidence. The witness resigned shortly after suffering an injury on the job. She testified she did receive worker’s compensation. Throughout questioning, Benavidez offered the theory that the witness was upset with Pineview for not offering insurance, held a grudge against Mallo and had helped her daughter come up with the allegations against Mallo. While the witness said she tolerated some things about Mallo she wasn’t fond of, they were good co-workers and she did not dislike him. She also stated there was no ill will or maliciousness between her and Pineview. Osceola County Assistant Prosecutor Andy LePres, who is working alongside Prosecutor Tyler Thompson, asked the witness if she helped her daughter “put some pieces together” in the allegations against Mallo, as it had been suggested. She denied this. “Did you help her remember that Mr. Mallo molested her at sometime in the early 90s?” LePres asked. “No, I had no idea,” the witness replied while clutching. “Did you decide, 17 years after your employment with Pineview, to get back at them by plotting with your daughter to come up with these allegations?” he continued. “Absolutely not,” she said. The victim’s mother was the first witness called by the defense after the prosecution had rested its case. Before calling the witness, Kirsch Satawa made a motion to Hill-Kennedy asking for a directed verdict, stating there was not sufficient evidence presented for a jury to render a verdict. However, Hill-Kennedy ruled there was sufficient evidence on all three counts of criminal sexual conduct and the case proceeded. A former foster child of Mallo’s also testified earlier in the day, describing times when she was inappropriately touched by Mallo, but the defense sought to prove the girl had a history of false allegations. The 16-year-old took the stand to detail instances where she claimed Mallo came into her bedroom to fondle and kiss her. Although the witness is a victim in another case against Mallo, she is not involved in any of the charges in this week’s trial but served as an additional witness for the prosecution. These allegations took place between April 2009 and February 2010. The trial is scheduled to come to a close Friday, but because of the long jury selection process it is running behind. On Thursday, Mallo’s attorneys eliminated many planned witnesses from their extensive list in an attempt to speed the process along.

To catch up coverage of this trial, read the following stories:

DAY 1 and 2: Jury selected, opening statements given in Mallo trial

DAY 3: Victim testifies to sexual abuse while babysitting for Mallo