Witness in Casper Trial: Winters Molested Sister, Nephew
A Rhode Island detective told jurors Wednesday morning that the man accused of kidnapping and child sex abuse in Casper faced similar allegations nearly 20 years ago.
Joshua Ashby Winters, 34, is charged with molesting a five-year-old boy last summer. A witness for the prosecution told jurors that Winters was accused of molesting his adopted sister and another child in the late 1990s.
Brian Casilli currently works as a special investigator for Blue Cross Blue Shield in Rhode Island, but was a state trooper when he worked the 1998 case against Winters in that state.
Casilli testified that allegations of child molestation were brought against Winters, who was 15 years old at the time. The alleged victim in that case was 11 years old.
Winters and the alleged victims lived in the same house as adopted children.
Casilli told the jury Winters admitted to sexually abusing the girl five or six times over a period of several weeks in 1997. Casilli said Winters convinced the victim to go along with it by giving her loose change or candy.
During his cross-examination of Casilli, public defender Robert Oldham asked whether Casilli knew Winters had been abused several times during his childhood, possibly when he was as young as eight months old.
Casilli said he was not aware of any such alleged abuse.
Shortly after Casilli took the witness stand Wednesday, Natrona County District Court Judge Thomas Sullins instructed jurors as to how they may consider Casilli's testimony.
In a May 5 decision letter, Sullins permitted Assistant District Attorney Brett Johnson to call Casilli as a witness under Rule 404(b) of the Wyoming Rules of Evidence.
That rule, as Sullins explained to jurors, allows evidence of "other crimes, wrongs, or acts" to be admitted at trial for purposes including "proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of a mistake or accident."
Sullins emphasized that jurors may not use Casilli's testimony in determining whether Winters is guilty of the crimes charged against him in this case. Jurors would have to find Winters guilty of the charges he currently faces before they could consider Casilli's testimony.
"This is not evidence he committed the crime in this case," Sullins told the jury.
In Johnson's April 13 notice of intent to present 404(b) evidence, the state included statements made by the victim in the 1998 case. She reportedly said Winters abused her when she was 7, 8 and 10 years old.
Winters would beg her and promise money, candy or gifts for sexual favors, according to Johnson's motion. The victim reportedly said she received a guitar for one such incident.
The victim also said she declined Winters on one occasion, and he hit her.
Johnson also said in his notice that Winters' five-year-old nephew told his parents in April 1998 that Winters molested him. As that nephew was interviewed by a different state trooper at the time, Casilli did not testify to that effect.
The crimes, Sullins noted, resulted in an adjudication before a family court in Rhode Island.
Sullins, in his decision, judged the evidence highlighted by Johnson as more probative than prejudicial, and allowed it to be presented at trial.
Due to concerns of confidentiality with respect to the family or juvenile court proceedings, however, Sullins precluded any reference at trial to the Rhode Island family court's proceedings or evidence of the convictions and adjudications.
The trial is scheduled to continue through Thursday.