A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge found a government meteorologist innocent yesterday of charges that he had sexually molested his two adopted daughters, ages 9 and 5.
Judge William Miller said that because of a lack of physical evidence, he had had to weigh the credibility of the 9-year-old girl against that of her 42-year-old father. The father steadfastly had denied the girl's accusations and said she had been "programmed" to give her testimony.
About a dozen of the man's friends and relatives wept with apparent relief and embraced each other as Miller acquitted the man minutes after closing arguments were made. One neighbor broke into applause.
The girls' mother also testified against her former husband. The couple, whose divorce became final last month, is embroiled in juvenile court in a bitter fight over visitation rights. The family's name is not being used in this story to protect the identity of the children.
"I don't have a divining rod to determine the truth," Miller said. But, he said, "the power of suggestion" and the visitation battle "could have programmed the daughter."
Defense attorney Charles S. Rand argued that the case against his client was born of "a lynch mentality -- a production of the 'sex abuse squad' " of Montgomery County police and prosecutors. Rand told the judge that law enforcement officials and the girls' "furious mother" had subjected the 9-year-old to "intense indoctrination."
"She's not a child who's been coaxed, rehearsed, beaten into testifying . . . " countered Assistant State's Attorney Janet Webb. "She's learned it's okay to tell what daddy did."
The older daughter testified that her father molested her from the time she was 2 until last June, when a juvenile court ordered him not to visit the children. She testified that her father also molested her little sister.