Caregiver’s Defense Tries To Counter Confession
WILKES-BARRE — Andrew Dula’s attorney urged a jury Wednesday to discount a damaging confession delivered during police questioning, saying jurors should not consider the statement until they are satisfied the prosecution has proven a crime occurred in the first place.
The jurors on Monday reacted with shock after seeing a video confession in which Dula, 56, admitted to sexually assaulting a non-verbal mentally disabled woman in his care more than a dozen times in 2016 because he was a virgin who didn’t have a girlfriend.
During closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, defense attorney Al Flora Jr. said jurors might be questioning the need for the trial in light of such a confession. But he told them the law dictates they cannot be guided by their emotions.
“You cannot in any way consider the statements that Andrew Dula made to the police until the prosecution first proves beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed,” Flora said, urging the jury to follow a “strict application of the law.”
He noted that investigators found no physical evidence of a sexual assault and said prosecutors failed to prove that a small bruise on the woman’s thigh was the result of any criminal conduct. He also warned jurors against speculating about the reason for whining noises the woman, who has the mental capacity of a small child, reportedly made in Dula’s presence while at the Institute for Human Resources and Services care home at 99 N. Dawes Ave., Kingston.
“You’re going to try and figure out why an 8½-month-old child would react a certain way,” Flora said. “That’s something that can’t be done.”
But Assistant District Attorney Nancy Violi countered that while the woman is severely disabled, the testimony made clear that she displays emotions and can react to external stimuli — she pulls away when someone tries to cut her nails or gives her a shot.
“When she makes a sound, you’d better believe there’s a reason for it,” Violi said. “She doesn’t do this to anybody except the defendant.”
Violi also pointed to a number of other “red flags” about Dula, including that he spent inordinate amounts of time in what was described as a “creepy” basement at the facility and that he was repeatedly warned — by five other employees — to stop unnecessarily waking the woman up at night to change her diaper.
“Yet he kept doing it over and over and over again. It’s not a mistake,” Violi said. “There’s no legit reason at all for all these unnecessary diaper changes.”
Not only was Dula warned about the diaper changes, but he was seen walking around the facility in his long johns and combing his hair while singing a love song featuring the victim’s name, she said.
“All these small pieces of the puzzle by themselves are not a crime,” Violi said. “He’s not arrested because he’s weird. He’s arrested because of what he did. The big picture came together.”
The prosecution rested its case first thing Wednesday, and Flora presented four witnesses prior to closing arguments. Two of them were Dula’s friends who testified that he has a reputation as being a law-abiding and nonviolent member of the community.
“We never had an incident with Andy,” said Exeter resident Dolores McGill, who said she has known Dula for over 30 years. “He was the sweetest guy.”
The defense also called two of Dula’s former co-workers, who told the jury the woman had a tendency to be restless and to whine during the night. A key part of the prosecution case was facility records showing the woman was awake for extended periods when Dula was working.
“You could hear everything that was going on in the house,” said institute employee Mary Majikes, of Wilkes-Barre.
Jurors were not expected to begin deliberations until Thursday morning.
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