Former Columbia County commissioner Scott Dean, accused of molesting one of his adopted daughters, took the stand to testify in his own defense Tuesday.
Dean, 42, is accused of exposing himself to and inappropriately touching his daughter, one of five children he and his wife adopted from Guatemala in 2008.
The trial began Monday.
The second day started with the alleged victim testifying that Dean came into her bedroom, crawled into bed with her and touched her vaginal area.
Dean, who originally met the children at an orphanage in Guatemala in about five years ago, said cuddling in bed with the children, including the older girls, was normal.
"All the girls had adjustment issues," Dean said, adding that he, sometimes his wife or oldest daughter Marlin, would curl up in bed with the others as comfort.
"We would lie and a lot of times we would talk."
The victim, Dean said, had night terrors for several months after arriving at the Dean's Harlem home.
"(I would) try and hold her," he said. "Try and put my arms around her and hold her."
Dean denied any kind of inappropriate kissing or touching.
The daughter, who has been out of the Dean household and living in foster care since early this year, testified with the help of a translator that Dean came into her room one night, lay in her bed and touched her private areas.
On another occasion, the now 17-year-old testified, Dean approached her in a bathroom, opened the towel he was wearing and told her he wanted to have sex.
Dean, admitting he had trouble adjusting to living with a house full of girls, said his daughter might have seen him run to the laundry room in a towel, but he never exposed himself to or made romantic advances toward her.
The teen is now in counseling and testified that she has never denied the allegations against Dean. In earlier testimony at a pre-trial hearing, her older sister, Marlin, said she had lied about such activity while she had run away to Mexico in order to garner sympathy and get money from her family.
The alleged victim, in turn, testified Tuesday that Dean treated Marlin, now 18, "like she was his girlfriend or wife."
Dean said Marlin has always been affectionate, especially when she's nervous.
"She loves to hug," he testified. "She loves to hold a hand. It reassures her because she's still got confidence issues."
During cross examination, the victim admitted she didn't get along with Dean's wife, Renee, and wanted to run away with her sister. She stayed in the Dean's Harlem home after her sister ran away to Mexico because Marlin said, "she'd have a better life here."
In opening statements Monday, Assistant District Attorney Parks White said Dean appeared to be an upstanding citizen, but harbored "a dark secret: a lustful disposition for minor girls."
Pete Theodocion, Dean's attorney, said the alleged victim grew up in an abusive home and was very close to Marlin, with whom she shared everything.
The victim said from the stand Tuesday that she once told Marlin that Dean touched her, but left out the details because she was scared.
She also said she opted to live away from the home with foster parents after her initial interviews in October 2010 because she feared Dean would touch her again. But by then, Theodocion said, Dean was already removed from the home by a court order and not allowed to return.
The victim testified that she and her adoptive mother did not get along and she'd do anything to get out of the house they shared.
Superior Court Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. ruled at that pre-trial hearing that White could present evidence that Dean allegedly committed similar sex acts against underage girls other than his daughters.
A pair of West Virginia twin sisters testified that Dean, then 14, molested them at a pool party and sleepover at their home when they were 12. No charges were filed in those cases.
Dean testified that it was his first sexual experience and that it was consensual act along with "show and tell."
White also alleged that between January and October of 2010 Dean criminally attempted to commit incest with two of his daughters, one of whom is the victim in the child molestation case. No charges have been filed in connection with those allegations.
Theodocion said the prosecution included no evidence of such an act.
Investigators from the Columbia County Sheriff's Office and Oglethorpe County Department of Family and Children Services conducted parallel investigations into the accusations against Dean. The DFCS child abuse investigator testified that the victim claims Dean touched her and exposed himself.
Dean was elected to the county commission in 2008 and re-elected in November 2010 despite being accused several months earlier of sending inappropriate text messages to a married county employee.
Following a February indictment on two counts of child molestation, Dean resigned his commission seat. He entered a plea of not guilty to those charges.
Dean has not lived in the family's home since DFCS temporarily removed the adopted children in October 2010.
A Columbia County grand jury re-indicted Dean on Sept. 28 on the same charges, but adjusted dates and the nature of one of the charges, according to court documents.
The initial indictment states the activity occurred between Sept. 1, 2008, and Sept. 11, 2010. The new indictment extends that period to Oct. 11, 2010. Dean entered another not guilty plea on Oct. 21.
The trial is expected to resume at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.