Judge declares mistrial in Lufkin man's sex assault trial

Andrew Ray mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Andrew Ray mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Amy Donahue
Amy Donahue

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story contains graphic sexual language.

By Jena Johnson - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - An Angelina County district judge has declared a mistrial in a Lufkin man's sexual assault trial, after a jury could not reach a verdict after three hours of deliberations.

Prosecuting attorney Tony Latino said the district attorney's office would evaluate the case and determine whether or not to retry the case.

If the case goes to trial, it will likely take place in August.

Latino said he will talk to the victim and her family and evaluate the case to determine whether or not the state will retry.

Defense Attorney Al Charanza said his client had mixed emotions because he had hoped for a not guilty verdict and wanted the case to be over.

"But he's going home tonight," Charanza said. " I knew the jury would have credibility issues in a he-said, she-said case with no physical evidence."

"We were fortunate to have a mature jury," Charanza said. "The average age of the jury panel was 62 years old."

When asked if there was any chance that Ray would want him to negotiate a plea bargain, Charanza said emphatically, "no." He said his client will remain out on bond until the prosecution decides what they want to do with the case.

"The ball is in their court," Charanza said.

The jury decided on the counts of continued sexual abuse by touch with the hand and indency with child by contact.

The jury was split 6-6 and 7-5 on those charges.

The first count of the three count indictment was dropped prior to deliberations.

As the jury deliberated a verdict, they're faced with a difficult question: did Andrew Ray continuously molest Jane Doe? Ray admits to kissing Jane's belly button. He says they even nicknamed it her "nunnin."

But on the witness stand, Jane revealed a much darker story. One of repeated sexual abuse. Assistant District Attorney Julie Alston says Jane's case is one of dozens.

"For prosecutors, I think we get involved emotionally with the families, with the children," Alston said. "To have them go through the courtroom experience, especially with the trial with the jury, so difficult for them and I personally don't sleep and sometimes don't eat during those trials because it takes even an emotional toll on us."

There are currently 55 child sex assault cases awaiting trial in Angelina County. Alston says none of those cases would have made it to her desk without the Children's Alliance Center.

"We are very fortunate to have it here," Director Amy Donahue said. "In fact we do a lot of courtesy interviews for other counties that don't have child advocacy centers."

Donahue has interviewed hundreds of alleged victims in this room. It's a difficult process that children go through only once -- thanks to this camera and microphone. Here's how it works.

As children tell their story in the other room, a team of investigators sit right here and watch the interview.

"The children, they're not re-victimized by having to go through and tell the story over and over again," Donahue said.

Jane's father says he's thankful Angelina County treats alleged victims delicately. He hopes his daughter's story will inspire others to come forward.

"Until we let these girls know that coming forward and keep telling people until there's nobody left to tell," the father said.

EDITORS' NOTE: Jena Johnson covered the trial and provided live accounts today at KTRE.com. Following is her account.

The mother testified her daughter had trusted her alleged perpetrator, Andrew Ray. She said they spent a lot of time practicing soccer together. She confirmed Ray was her daughter's soccer coach.

Defense Attorney Al Charanza asked if she ever observed her daughter being distant toward Ray.

"Never," she testified.

Charanza questioned the mother's relationship with her daughter.

"I'm her mother. I love her with all of my heart," she said in tears.

Charanza asked her to walk the jurors through how she confronted her daughter after learning of the sexual allegations.

"When I walked in she crossed her arms and said, 'I'm not lying,'" she said.

"She had this smirk on her face," the mother testified."

Her mother said her daughter had told her once Ray kissed her there, pointing to her "bikini area."

"I asked her what did she mean he kissed her there? She replied, 'you know like you suck on an ice cream cone,'" testified the mother.

The mother testified she confronted Ray about her daughter's allegations and he denied ever touching her daughter.

The mother explained the events in the car ride to her daughter's school that led to her slapping her daughter.

"She kept mouthing off and continued to tell me, 'I know you think I'm lying,'" she testified.

"I told her I thought she was lying. I told her you're a horrible liar and you always have been," said the mother.

"I told her if she continued with this lie it would tear our family apart and we would lose everything because without our family not much else matters," she said."

The mother said her daughter told her she hated her and called her a curse word, so then she slapped her.

Shortly after the daughter got out of the car and headed to class, the mother testified she called the girl's father and told her to buy a plane ticket because she was coming to live with him.

On the stand, the mother was adamant she did not believe her daughter's allegations against Ray.

"I started noticing discrepancies in her story," she said.

The mother described watching her daughter pack to leave for her grandparents' house before she moved in with her father.

"She started throwing her clothes in trash bags," she said. "Then she tried to take her iPod and Nintendo games and I told her 'no!' she could not take those things with her."

The mother testified she told her she was grounded from those things because she had told a lie and been disrespectful.

Toward the end of Charanza's questioning, the alleged victim was visibly shaken by her mother's testimony.

Latino appeared repulsed by the mother's testimony during the defense's cross-examination.

"You sit here and tell us how your daughter is lying, not Ray, but your daughter!" said Latino.

Without any hesitation, the mother said yes.

The mother testified that in 2008 her sister had told her the alleged victim said Ray had sexually assaulted her.

"I didn't believe her. I didn't see any red flags," she said.

"As I said before I know my daughter. I know how she acts. I know the difference between when she's being honest with me and she's flat-out telling me a lie," she told the jurors.

"Just the thought of Andrew doing anything to my daughter made me sick to my stomach," she said. "I couldn't even see straight. But when I walked into her room she bowed up and said, 'I'm not lying. I'm telling the truth. How did she know what I was going to talk to her about?"

The mother testified that if she wanted it to stop, she should have told someone. Latino fired back and said she did, she told several of her friends at school and even a close family member who did nothing.

He asked the mother why the girl would make this up.

"I think she wanted attention from some boy she had a crush on," said the mother.

"You can spin this anyway way you want to, but the bottom line is I don't believe my daughter," she said through heavy tears.

For what seemed like several minutes, silence overcame the courtroom as the mother cried uncontrollably on the witness stand.

Charanza asked Ray to tell the jurors about his relationship with the alleged victim.

"We had a normal relationship," Ray said. "We would go to soccer practices, soccer games."

He testified he was heartbroken when he discovered the girl's allegations against him.

"I remember having to sit down because I was fixing to fall down," he said. "it just overwhelmed me that she said those things and I don't understand why."

He said he called the Lufkin Police Department requesting the police report, but he said they didn't have one.

"I told police Jane Doe had accused me of some inappropriate acts that I did not do, so I gave them my phone numbers, my address and where I worked," he said.

Charanza asked if Ray he ever touched her genitals with his mouth. "No, I did not," said Ray. "If I ever kissed her it would be on the forehead or on the lips. She even kissed me on the lips."

As Ray testified, some of the jurors' eyes darted to the girl's mother who moved to a back row  of the courtroom in tears.

Charanza asked how he felt about the girl's allegations. "I can't believe it," he said. "I don't know why she's saying it."

During the state's turn to cross-examine Ray, he admitted to kissing the girl on and around her belly button.  He said they nicknamed her belly button "nunnon." He said he asked the girl if he could kiss her there and she always said yes.

"The evidence shows that he asked if he could kiss her down there. He touched her on the breasts on numerous occasions," Latino told the jurors in closing argument.

"She loved him. He was like a father to her," said Latino.

"The only way you can find him guilty of continuous sexual abuse is if he continuously touched her genitals," Charanza told the jurors.

Charanza said it was the classic case of he said, she said.

"Jane Doe is trying to make this very innocent touching at night a crime," said Charanza.

"It's a story made up and now the lie is out," said Charanza. "Then she comes in and testifies before you with limited details."

Copyright 2010 KTRE. All rights reserved.