A Columbia County jury found Thursday Scott Dean guilty of molesting his adopted teen daughter.
The jury started deliberations late Wednesday afternoon and spent about seven hours discussing the case before rendering a verdict against the former Harlem mayor and Columbia County commissioner.
After the court clerk read the verdict, Dean remained calm, only hanging his head. The courtroom was silent except for the soft sobs of Dean’s wife, Renee, and eldest daughter, Marlin, hugging each other on the front row. Dean’s mother, Rikki Dean, in obvious shock at the verdict, could only hold her hand over her mouth.
Dean, 42, was charged with two counts of child molestation. He was accused of exposing himself to and inappropriately touching another daughter, one of five the Deans adopted from Guatemala in 2008.
Harlem City Councilman John Thigpen, served with Dean when he was mayor of Harlem.
“I’m honestly shocked,” he said. “I’ve known Scott a while and I’m finding the whole thing hard to believe.”
Thigpen tried to offer Dean encouragement when the two spoke Wednesday evening.
“I talked to him (Dean) last night and he was calm,” Thigpen said Thursday, “but I could tell he was in a nervous state and naturally worried. I told him to keep his head up.”
Child molestation carries a 5-to-20-year sentence, Assistant District Attorney Parks White said.
“For some children, the monsters are not under their beds, but in their beds,” White said Wednesday in his closing arguments.
The victim accused Dean of crawling into her bed and touching her vaginal area some time between Sept. 1, 2008, and Oct. 11, 2010, according to the indictment.
Dean defense attorney Pete Theodocion claimed during the trial that when Marlin ran away to Mexico in October 2010, she left her younger sister behind. Angry that Marlin left her, and because of tension with Dean’s wife, Theodocion said the girl made up the allegations to escape the home.
The victim, now 17, testified Tuesday that Dean crawled into her bed at night and touched her. She also said that Dean exposed himself to her by opening a towel he was wearing and said he wanted to have sex.
“Oh, my God,” said longtime Harlem resident Jack Hatcher upon hearing the news of the verdict. “I didn’t feel like it was compelling evidence. The girls changed their stories. They first said they lied about it.”
Marlin, who heard about the allegations just days after she ran away to Mexico with a boyfriend, insinuated to Columbia County sheriff’s investigators trying to interview her by phone that Dean tried to have sex with her. She later recanted, claiming she lied to make people feel sorry for her and send her money.
A few people testified during the trial that the victim and her younger sister met with Dean’s wife and a family friend and said they lied about the allegations. But during her testimony, the victim stood by her story.
Dean was banned from the family’s Harlem home in October 2010, after the Department of Family and Children Services temporarily removed the adopted children from the home.
The Harlem High School graduate served on the Harlem City Council and more than five years as the city’s mayor before being elected to the county commission in July 2008 to fill the seat vacated by Lee Anderson.
Dean was re-elected as the District 4 commissioner in November 2010 despite being accused several months earlier of sending inappropriate text messages to a married county employee.
He resigned from the position in February, when he was indicted on the child molestation charges.
Bill Morris replaced Dean as the District 4 Columbia County Commissioner last year in a special election. He didn’t offer an opinion on the outcome of the trial.
“I’m just glad that it’s over,” Morris said. “It’s been a fast ordeal. I just want us to move forward.”
Judge James G. Blanchard Jr. did not immediately sentence Dean. By request of Dean’s attorney, he will be sentenced at a later date, which was not set Thursday.