Child Sexual Abuse Expert Testimony Allowed

Defendant in child sexual abuse case filed a motion to exclude the expert based on timeliness, relevance, and reliability.  The motion for all three was denied.

Facts: This opinion (United States of America v. Joseph D. Maurizio, Jr – United States District Court – District of Pennsylvania – September 8th, 2015) involves a motion to exclude the testimony of a child sexual abuse expert witness.

Defendant Joseph D. Maurizio, Jr. was charged and indicted on eight counts of criminal activity including engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, and possession of client pornography.  In order to prove their case, plaintiff hired Dr. Veronique Valliere to provide expert witness testimony on general characteristics of child sex abuse victims, offender characteristics, and the dynamics between victim and offender.

The defense filed a motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Valliere on numerous grounds.  First, they argue that the Government did not provide adequate notice of Dr. Valliere’s expert testimony.  Second, they maintain that Dr. Valliere will be providing an expert opinion on Child Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS), which is not admissible.  Third, they state that Dr. Valliere’s testimony does not meet the Daubert standard as it is not reliable or relevant.  They also argue that the testimony is prejudicial.

Regarding the three Daubert challenges,  the defense states that the testimony is unreliable because there are studies that show that CSAAS appears in only 6% of children.  They state that the testimony is irrelevant because Dr. Valliere did not observe or evaluate any of the alleged victims of abuse.  Last, they argue that the testimony is prejudicial in that a jury could ascertain that the alleged abuse did happen based on the CSAAS testimony.

In response to these arguments, the Government proffers the following rebuttal.  They state that Dr. Valliere will not be testifying on CSAAS and will not opine as to whether any of these characteristics appear in the alleged victims.

Discussion: The court looked at the three objection and dismissed them accordingly.

Regarding the argument that the Government did not provide the defense with adequate notice of the expert testimony, the court stated that the written summary provided to the defense satisfies the notice requirements on what issues the expert will testify on.  In addition, the court stated that the defense was provided with adequate notice.  The court opined that the Government does not have to automatically provide the defense with disclosures;  the defense has to request it, which they didn’t.  In addition, the Government provided the defense with the disclosure four weeks before trial, which, according to case law, is an adequate amount of time.

On the issue of relevance and the prejudicial nature of the testimony, the court stated that Dr. Valliere’s testimony on why child abuse victims hide the abuse and delay disclosure will help the jury make a determination at trial.  In addition, the fact that Dr. Valliere did interview any of the abused victims is well within reason of prejudice as there is no requirement that an expert must interview the victims.  In fact, not interviewing the victims in this type of case makes it less likely that she would be prejudiced in her testimony.

On the last issue of the Daubert hearing, the court found that Dr. Valliere meets all of the requirements.  The defense noted that she will not be discussing CSAAS testimony, so the court need not have a discussion on whether or not it is reliable testimony.  In addition, her educational and vocational background qualify her as an expert in her field and qualified to offer testimony on child sexual abuse issues.  Last, the court found that her testimony will fit the principles in this case.

Held: The motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Valliere is denied.