A Walworth County jury Wednesday convicted two Lake Geneva brothers of multiple counts of sexually assaulting a young boy they knew.
The jury acquitted the brothers on charges they showed the young boy sexually explicit material and made a young girl disrobe.
The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for about 90 minutes before reaching verdicts for Brady Schoonover, now 22, and Tayler Schoonover, now 24. The brothers had a joint trial because the convictions stem from the same victim.
The jury decided Brady was guilty of three counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child, two of which were for intercourse with a child younger than 12 and the third for having sexual contact with a child younger than 13.
The jury convicted Tayler of two counts of first-degree sexual assault of a child for having sexual contact with a child younger than 13.
The case, which detailed numerous allegations dating back years ago, rested on whom jurors should believe and when they should believe them.
The allegations came to light after a school writing assignment in which the victim finished a sentence that started “If you really knew me ...”
“You’d know that I never got to be a kid,” the assignment reads. “And from my childhood, I was abused mentally, physically and sexually. There’s been only one person I’ve ever told this, but I was a victim to rape throughout my whole childhood until I was 7.”
During closing arguments Wednesday, the lawyers for the Schoonovers—Michael Murphy for Brady and Melissa Frost for Tayler—questioned the time span of the criminal charges.
They pointed out that the victim repeatedly said the assaults happened when he was 5 to 7 years old, but that doesn’t line up with later statements and the prosecution’s charging window of 2011 to 2013.
“I don’t know if (the victim) knows what the truth is anymore,” Murphy said.
Assistant District Attorney Diane Donohoo countered by saying it’s not unusual for a young child to have trouble remembering the exact age he was during various incidents he had kept secret for years.
Donohoo argued the victim was not the only person to get dates wrong. She said he later came to realize the assaults occurred later than he thought.
At one point during his testimony, the victim broke down because he was so frustrated that he got a home address wrong, attorneys said. The court had to take a brief recess before continuing.
“He let out a cry, a scream,” Donohoo said. “He went into a little room and cried with his father. That tells you he’s telling the truth.”
More important, Donohoo said, the victim recounted the assaults in explicit detail.
Donohoo started her closing statements by saying the case rested on one fact: that the victim was telling the truth. She said Brady and Tayler had counted on threats to keep him in “eternal silence.”
“That didn’t happen,” Donohoo said. “What they did to him was (the victim’s) worst nightmare. And now the fact that (the victim) got a little older, felt safe and garnered up the courage to tell, now that’s their worst nightmare.”
On the charges the Schoonovers were acquitted of, Frost and Murphy argued the acts did not involve the brothers’ sexual gratification or the degradation of the victim. One of the charges stemmed from an innocent game of “truth or dare,” they said.
The Schoonovers are scheduled for sentencing hearings at 2 p.m. April 2.
Brady is not eligible for the mandatory minimum prison sentence of 25 years because it could not be determined beyond a reasonable doubt that he was older than 18 during the assaults, Murphy said.