Opening statements made for Groton man accused of teen sexual assault

Editor's Note: The following story was originally published Nov. 30 by our partner publication, The Ithaca Voice.

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ITHACA, N.Y. — The trial of a Groton man accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in 2014 began Monday with a jury selection and opening statements where he maintained his innocence.

Howard Leonard, 67, is charged with felonies for first-degree sexual abuse and first-degree attempted sexual abuse, along with a misdemeanor for endangering the welfare of a child.

According to Assistant District Attorney Wendy Franklin, Leonard committed the crimes against the girl -- who he knows --  in January or February of 2014.

She said Leonard pulled the girl close to him as she walked by a chair he was sitting in at a Groton home.  He then put his hand up her shorts and began touching her private parts.

"He told her it would feel good," Franklin said, as the teen told him to stop.

On the following weekend -- when the teen thought Leonard would not be at the home -- he allegedly attempted to take her pants off while they sat next to each other on a couch.

Franklin said the victim and a police officer who investigated the case will be among the people to take the stand for the prosecution.

Leonard's attorney Richard Van Donsel said Franklin has not said when the alleged crimes happened, and his client spent most of January and February 2014 on the road working as a truck driver. For the brief times Leonard was home, Van Donsel said there is no evidence any crimes took place.

"He stands, sits here an innocent man," Van Donsel said about his client.

He said Leonard, his wife and several other witnesses will take the stand throughout the trial to allegedly prove his client's innocence.

The trial starts again at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning.

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