By Carla St. Louis
Although Mendeecees Harris was acquitted of the child molestation charges against him, many details from the trial were released including the 19-year old victim’s testimony, his prosecutor’s comments, and commentary from the prosecutor.
Harris’ take on his relationship with the than 15-year old accuser:
Harris insisted during testimony yesterday that he “never had a relationship” with the woman, who is now 19 and testified herself in the trial, which began Tuesday.
“That’s the truth – never, never – I never committed none of them acts to that girl in my life,” he told jurors.
Harris insisted that he was living in Lodi with the victim, her mother and their three boys at the time in order to protect his $50,000 down payment on the house after discovering his name wasn’t on the deed.
Although Harris and the victim’s mother were in a relationship in 2009, living together in Lodi along with their children from previous relationships, he maintained their relationship was platonic. Their brood included her two pre-teen boys and a baby son of his from another woman.
Harris’ description of his relationship with the accuser’s mother was rather less intimate and matter-of-fact:
At that point, he said, he and the woman were just friends – including when she leased an apartment on Prospect Street in Hackensack and gave him a key in order to help him out.
“I told her we need to either sell the house or you need to give me my down payment out,” Harris said. “My stuff was in boxes in the hallway for months.”
The accuser’s version of her relationship with Harris when she was 15 years old was described as “taking candy from a baby” by Demtra Maurice, the prosecutor in the case, accusing Harris of manipulating her using money and mind games:
The woman, now 19, testified this week that Harris told her she was “better than [her] mother” after coercing her into oral sex by revealing his knowledge of a dark secret from her past. “He told me he knew I had been raped when I was 8 years old,” she said, “and he found out from my mother.
“ ‘Your mom doesn’t want you here’,” the woman said Harris told her before exposing himself.
She said she complied with his desire out of spite “to get back at my mom.”
“I felt betrayed by her,” she testified on Tuesday. “I didn’t tell her about it until I was 14, and it was something I didn’t want anyone to know.”
That began a series of oral sexual favors in exchange for money, she said.
Some of the incidents occurred while she was still 15, the teen said, and others after her 16th birthday, when Harris was more than four years older – the standard in New Jersey for statutory rape.
Harris was charged with seven counts of child abuse and with promoting prostitution. If convicted, he would have faced up to 20 years in prison.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Brian Neary pressed the woman about her statements to detectives, her grand jury testimony and the numerous incidents she claimed Harris coerced her into sex, highlighting inconsistencies in where and when she said the incidents allegedly occurred.
The defense attorney also challenged her decision not to return South to her father’s home, as well as her failure to disclose what she said happened to “your counselor, your minister grandmother.”
Neary emphasized that Harris took the stand voluntarily and pleaded “not guilty wrapped in the presumption of innocence.”
“He took the witness stand to speak the truth, to look you in the eye,” the defense attorney told the jury during his closing argument yesterday.
“I told him: Don’t worry, Mendeecees,” Neary said. “This is a jury that comes not just from one section of Bergen County, not just from one experience.
“The beauty of a jury is you just don’t look at someone through the view of one simple perspective. It’s the collection of your perspective.”
Neary emphasized the fact that the woman couldn’t remember dates or specific incidents, part of what he called “contradiction upon contradiction” and “inconsistencies.”
Their Lodi home didn’t have locks, he said, and the woman’s brothers were around, running in and out of the house — making the sexual encounters she described implausible.
Neary also took issue with Maurice’s attempt to untangle Harris’ relationships with three different women.
“How dare the prosecutor suggest that because he had a different lifestyle – that because he had different girlfriends – sometimes at the same time?” he asked. “And that he’s a reality TV star who gets $4,000 an episode… How dare she?
“Not one question contradicted his belief, his strong feeling, and the truth that he had nothing to do with this girl, nothing to do with these sexual allegations,” Neary said. “He broke down and said, ‘I didn’t do this,’ on the verge of tears.”
Harris is currently being held at the Bergen County Jail, and arrangements are expected to be made to extradite him to New York next week for charges trafficking $2.5 million worth of heroin and cocaine.