Defiant and often confrontational, Robert Thornburgh Jr. told a 35th District Court jury Wednesday morning that allegations that he sexually abused multiple teenage girls are a conspiracy of lies.
The lies were intended to hurt him and bolster one of his daughters in a custody dispute involving Thornburgh, that daughter and the daughter's son — Thornburgh's grandson — in a now-resolved custody issue, Thornburgh testified.
Thornburgh and his daughter had been involved in a tug-of-war in court as each vied for custody of the child, according to testimony.
"It's lies — fabrication, lies," Thornburgh testified.
The prosecution rested its case Tuesday, and told his attorney, Rudy Taylor, that he wanted to testify when the defense began its case.
Thornburgh is standing trial on two counts of sexual assault of a child stemming from allegations that Thornburgh, 45, had sexual relations in 2006 with his then-14-year-old girlfriend. Thornburgh maintains he had tried to help the girl, who had a troubled home life, but that he did not have a dating or sexual relationship with her.
On Tuesday, jurors heard testimony pertaining to his alleged sexual relations with only that girl. On Wednesday, the focus abruptly changed when prosecutor Sam Moss was allowed to let jurors know that Thornburgh faces allegations that he sexually abused three other girls. Thornburgh has been indicted on those allegations.
Outside the jury's presence, Moss argued before District Judge Steve Ellis that Thornburgh had opened the door because he testified Tuesday that he treated the 14-year-old girl the same way he treated his daughters. Moss argued that Thornburgh's statement was grounds for impeachment because of the allegations contained in some of the indictments Thornburgh faces.
Over the objections of defense attorney Rudy Taylor, Ellis ruled that jurors could hear about those allegations.
"At no point in time have I touched any of them kids," Thornburgh testified, insisting repeatedly that all of the girls who made allegations are lying.
Moss was also allowed to ask Thornburgh about his confrontation with another jail inmate, David Ortega, in a dispute over a Harry Potter book on May 3. Thornburgh is alleged to have knocking Ortega down. Ortega sustained a head injury and was flown out by helicopter ambulance.
"It was a reflex action on my part after I had been assaulted," Thornburgh testified.
Taylor introduced evidence that one of the girls had made several outcries against Thornburgh and that CPS investigators had found the outcries to be unfounded.
The girl told CPS investigators on numerous occasions that nothing had happened, Esmeralda Riojas of the Department of Family and Protective Services testified. Moss asked Riojas on cross-examination if it would be unusual for a young victim of abuse to tell investigators that no abuse had occurred out of fear of reprisal, and then tell what happened only after being removed from the home and placed in a safe environment.
Riojas said that wouldn't be unusual, and other testimony indicated that such a scenario had occurred with the girl.
After Taylor rested the defense case, Moss reopened the state's case and called a 20-year-old Amarillo woman Thornburgh is alleged to have sexually assaulted when the woman was a teen living in Brownwood.
The woman said she was friends with one of Thornburgh's daughters and visited their home several times. Under questioning from Moss, the woman described several events in which, she said, Thornburgh had various types of sexual contact with her.
When asked why she continued to go to the Thornburgh home, the woman said she wanted to get away from her own home and her alcoholic mother. "It was better than being at my mom's," the woman testified.
Taylor challenged the woman on cross-examination, noting that a detail she told later to a CPS investigator was different than her testimony Wednesday.
"It's a story you made up, isn't it?" Taylor asked.
"It's the truth," the woman testified. Under follow-up questioning from Moss, the woman asserted that the events involving her and Thornburgh had happened as she described them.
The trial continues today at the Brown County Courthouse.