In the fall of 2008, 35-year-old Joseph Anthony Scamardo, Jr. was accused of sexually assaulting the nine-year-old daughter of his girlfriend while the family spent the Labor Day weekend at Scamardo’s parents’ home in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
The allegation did not surface until a month later when the girl’s father was driving the girl to a counseling session that she began attending after her father divorced her mother. The father later told authorities that when he told his daughter to make sure to talk about everything she needed to talk about, she said that Scamardo had touched her genitals.
The father called police and the following day, the girl was taken to the Children’s Safety Center in Springdale, Arkansas, where a medical exam was performed. No physical evidence of sexual assault was found.
Despite the lack of physical evidence, Scamardo was charged with second-degree sexual assault and went on trial in Sebastian County Circuit Court in July 2010. By that time, Scamardo was the girl’s step-father because he had married the girl’s mother.
The girl testified that she and Scamardo’s daughter shared an inflatable bed when they spent the night at Scamardo’s parents’ home. The girl testified that during the night, Scamardo came to the bed, lifted her nightgown, pulled down her underwear and touched her genitals with his finger and then left.
The girl’s father testified that she told him of the sexual assault a month later as they drove to the counseling session. The session was court-ordered as a result of the father’s divorce from the girl’s mother.
A sexual-assault nurse examiner testified that her findings from the exam of the girl were normal, which was consistent with what the girl said had happened because the allegation was touching. The nurse testified that when the allegation is only touching, she typically did not expect to find any physical evidence of abuse. She admitted on cross-examination that she could not say anything had happened to the victim, but also could not say that nothing had happened based on her examination.
The girl’s mother testified for Scamardo and said that she and Scamardo had spent the night in a nearby motel and presented a receipt from the motel. She said they stayed in a motel because her divorce decree barred Scamardo from having contact with her children.
The defense sought to call the girl’s aunt to testify that she had been present when the girl told her mother that she was being told to lie to implicate Scamardo. The prosecution objected and the trial judge barred the evidence as inadmissible hearsay.
On August 5, 2010, a jury convicted Scamardo of second-degree sexual assault and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
In June 2012, the Arkansas Court of Appeals reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that the father’s testimony should not have been admitted in evidence. In addition, the court held that the trial judge also erred in barring the aunt’s testimony that she heard the girl say she had been told to lie. The court noted that during cross-examination, the girl denied that she had ever said that she had been told to lie. The court said that the aunt’s testimony was proper impeachment testimony and should have been allowed.
The state appealed and in April 2013, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the reversal and order for a new trial.
Scamardo went on trial a second time in November 2013. The father’s testimony was excluded and the aunt testified that she was present when the girl told her mother that she had been told to lie and say that Scamardo sexually assaulted her.
The girl’s mother also testified her daughter never told her Scamardo assaulted her. Instead, the mother said her daughter denied it happened and told her, “Mom, they're making me lie.” She said the accusation was the result of pressure from the girl’s father. The mother again testified that she and Scamardo spent the night at a motel.
Mary Scamardo, Scamardo's mother, also testified that her son was never at the house that night.
On November 21, 2013, a jury acquitted Scamardo and he was released.
– Maurice Possley