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Boy takes stand to ID molester

Because defendant Paul Kline backed out of a plea deal last year, the testimony was required.

By CARY DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 24, 2002

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Prosecutors had tried to prevent what unfolded in court Thursday.

Last year, they offered Paul Kline a deal: Plead guilty to molesting a 4-year-old boy and avoid a life sentence. Prosecutors offered Kline the deal, which called for 40 years in prison, to spare the young victim from the trauma of testifying about what happened to him.

The deal was nearly done. Kline had signed the papers. But at the last minute, he backed out and asked for a trial.

And so on Thursday, a prosecutor stooped and put his arm around the tow-headed boy's shoulders. Together they walked across the courtroom carpet toward the defendant. The boy stopped just feet from the defense table and, because he was too short to see over the edge, raised his chin for a better look.

Then he raised his arm and pointed at the defendant, identifying the 21-year-old Kline as the man who forced him to do those things inside a Moon Lake home. Prosecutors say Kline, who was 19 at the time, forced the boy to perform oral sex on him in July 2000, offering Pokemon cards as a reward. Then Kline masturbated in front of the boy, prosecutors say.

When he pointed his tiny finger at Kline on Thursday morning, the boy, now 6, became more than just an innocent victim. He became a public accuser, a role that forced him to describe things that children should never have to know about.

Emotions reached the boiling point when the boy's mother took the stand. First she had to testify about how her son told her what Kline had done to him. Then, on cross-examination, she faced questions about her own sexual habits.

Were there pornographic magazines in her house? How about sex toys?

Eventually, the woman refused to answer any more questions. "You're going to have to take me to jail or fine me or whatever," she told Circuit Judge W. Lowell Bray. "I don't want to be here."

The judge issued an ultimatum: "I will put you in jail until you decide to testify."

Given the lunch break to mull over her options, the woman decided to continue with her testimony.

Kline's public defender, Sara Sanchez, suggested in her opening remarks that the boy made up the story. He could have gotten the idea, Sanchez said, from his parents' pornographic material.

Prosecutors countered that argument Thursday afternoon with the defendant's own words, playing a videotaped interview between Kline and Pasco sheriff's detective Bill Davis.

On the tape, Kline admitted that the boy had performed oral sex on him. He said the incident lasted "less than five minutes."

"I immediately stopped," Kline told the detective. "I knew the consequences."

The consequences are severe. Charged with capital sexual battery, Kline faces an automatic life sentence if he is convicted.

The trial continues this morning.

-- Cary Davis covers courts in west Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6236, or toll free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6236. His e-mail address is

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