Child takes stand in abuse, trafficking case
The 8-year-old girl at the center of an abuse and trafficking case wore her light brown hair in two neat pigtails as she answered questions in court from a prosecutor for two hours Tuesday afternoon.
Her father, James Stewart, is on trial in state District Court in Albuquerque this week accused of numerous felonies. Prosecutors say he made his young daughter touch his friends inappropriately in exchange for drugs and paraphernalia.
It was only after watching video footage from one of her earlier safe house interviews that the child told jurors her father forced her into it. She offered few details and generally provided short answers.
“Did you want to do that?” prosecutor Brittany Duchaussee asked.
“No,” the child said. “I don’t think it’s right.”
She spoke repeatedly about panhandling when she was hungry and on days when she wasn’t in school, and she said her parents used to ask her to take wallets out of people’s pockets and purses.
“I think it was called stealing and I didn’t really like doing that,” she said.
And she said she spent time with her dad’s friend “Uncle Chip,” who prosecutors say is Cornelius Galloway, a man facing federal sex trafficking charges.
But other portions of her testimony contradicted allegations described in Stewart’s indictment and criminal complaint.
The child denied her father had ever sold her clothes or pushed her off of a bike. And she said previous pairs of glasses had been broken by her brother, the family’s pit bull and a stray ball at recess, but never by her dad.
While his indictment alleges Stewart made his daughter act as a lookout while he posed as a mailman, the girl testified that the only thing she’d ever done with her father involving the mail was to “throw it away.”
She didn’t come to school in fancy clothes, she said, but she’d worn her mom’s high heels to music class. If she was tired at school, it was because she woke up early to shower “so we’ll smell nice.” And she wore clean clothes that had been washed in the bathtub just like her father taught her.
School personnel have said that the then-first-grader routinely came to school unbathed and unkempt, often wearing soiled clothes, and she regularly took naps.
The girl’s testimony resumes Wednesday morning before Judge Cindy Leos.