Woman alleging rape takes stand in ex-chief's trial

Wednesday, May 20, 1998

BY RACHEL MELCER
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Talk of conspiracies, botched investigations, small-town politics and good old boys highlighted prosecutors' opening statements Tuesday in the rape case of former Harrison Police Chief Thomas Keenan.

Yet by the time the defense had its say and Mr. Keenan's accuser took the stand in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, the case boiled down to a matter of "he said, she said."

Mr. Keenan, 43, was born and raised in Harrison, where he served 15 years on the force and became chief. Now he is accused of two counts of rape and three counts of gross sexual imposition -- which carry a combined maximum penalty of more than 24 years in jail.

The jury of four men and eight women sat transfixed as defense attorney Nancy Dameron displayed enlarged copies of sexually explicit letters written to Mr. Keenan by his accuser, a former clerical employee.

The notes are among more than 100 the two allegedly exchanged during the woman's employment.

According to assistant county prosecutor Heather Russell, Mr. Keenan forced the woman to write the notes as an "insurance policy" should she ever speak against him.

"If he was not satisfied with what she's written, he tears it up . . . until it's sexually explicit," she said.

Although Mr. Keenan is not accused of using a weapon or physical violence against the woman, "he is bigger than her. They are in a small room he has manipulated her into. . . . That is force," Ms. Russell said.

Defense attorney Dameron offered a different picture: The letters, which at first were so "inconsequential . . . frivolous and silly" that Mr. Keenan threw them away, quickly became more explicit and predatory.

"He continued to rebuff her advances, but at this point, he's in a very difficult position," Ms. Dameron told the jury. "I can tell you how this happened, but I can't tell you why. (The accuser) is a troubled woman."

Mr. Keenan's attorneys have said the charges are trumped-up, made in response to a multimillion-dollar lawsuit Mr. Keenan filed against the city of Harrison and several city officials.

Although the woman testified for more than 90 minutes Tuesday, accusing Mr. Keenan of verbal abuse and harassment, little has yet been said about the specific crimes. She is expected to take the stand againtoday.

Mr. Keenan is accused of twice fondling the woman's breasts, once forcing her to fondle his genitals and twice raping her with digital penetration.

In overruling a defense objection that the woman's testimony so far is irrelevant, Judge Steven Martin noted that prosecutors are trying to establish a pattern of coercion that led her to submit to his sexual attack.



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