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Alleged sex crimes case may hinge on witness credibility

A man from St. Charles has been accused of attempted sexual trafficking of a child under age 18, attempted promotion of prostitution and attempted statutory rape.

Police allege these sex crimes were committed when the man asked a woman to arrange a meeting with a minor girl. According to investigators, the woman was a confidential informant. They claim the man showed up at an arranged meeting place where he was arrested.

The defendant is currently being held in St. Charles County Jail on $250,000 bail. Court records indicate that he had prior convictions for stealing.

If this case goes to trial, the outcome will likely hinge on the testimony of the confidential informant. Although it isn't crystal clear from the facts provided by the police, it is probable that the informant was the only witness to the alleged statements of the defendant.

In this situation, the credibility of the informant is all-important. The jurors' decision to convict will be based on whether they believe the informant. If they find her not to be believable, they likely would find him not guilty in the absence of other evidence.

Whenever a witness such as this informant testifies at trial, the defense is allowed to question the witness's credibility. The defense attorney will ask the witness about things such as prior statements that are not consistent with the witness's testimony and prior acts of a dishonest nature such as lying. The jury may decide that it cannot trust the information provided by the witness if she has a history of dishonesty.

Also, the defense has the freedom to ask about evidence suggesting the witness is biased against the defendant. The jury may decide that the witness is slanting her testimony and thus isn't trustworthy.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "St. Charles man arrested after trying to arrange sex with 12-year-old," Susan Weich, Aug. 8, 2012

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