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Curran Kirchner found not guilty on 9 of 10 counts in sex abuse case

01/28/2016 4:09 PM |

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The criminal court building at the County Center.

A Suffolk County jury has found a Wading River man not guilty on nine counts of sexually abusing two women he knew personally, though the jury remains undecided on a final charge.

The jurors are due back in court on Monday.

Curran Lee Kirchner — who has been held in county jail since he was arrested in the summer of 2014 after photographs and video of the sex acts were discovered by one of his accusers —  was cleared of nine charges including predatory sexual assault, criminal sex act, and sexual abuse — by the 5-man, 7-woman jury Thursday afternoon.

The jury has not reached a decision on a final felony charge of first-degree criminal sexual act that allegedly took place in May 2010. The jury will reconvene Monday to further deliberate on that charge, which is punishable from six to 25 years in prison.

As a clerk read the not guilty verdicts aloud in criminal court in Riverhead Thursday, Mr. Kirchner sat at his defense attorney’s table, put his head down and quietly cried, his shoulders shaking.

He had faced life in prison if convicted on the top charge in the 10-count indictment.

Outside the courtroom, a relative of one of the victims was also shaking. Another said she was “shocked” but both declined to comment to a News-Review reporter.

Deliberations had lasted nearly three days after closing statements Monday, when Mr. Kirchner’s Legal Aid defense attorney David Geller claimed the women had consented to the sex acts and that prosecutors cherrypicked evidence.

In his closing statement, Mr. Geller also contended video and photographs taken by Mr. Kirchner while the women were allegedly drugged did not prove they were “physically helpless.” He also warned jurors not to let the alleged victims’ “emotions substitute as evidence.”

Mr. Geller declined to comment Thursday, noting one charge was still undecided.

Assistant district attorney John Cortes had accused Mr. Curran of using Xanax to drug the women at his 16th Street home and then perform oral and anal sex acts on them without their consent. The accusers testified they had no knowledge of the incidents until one alleged victim found a disc containing the files.

During their deliberations, jurors asked to see video of the sex acts and to reread testimony of one of the accusers. Mr. Kirchner was cleared of all charges involving that woman.

Numerous other notes from the jury requested photos and more video, specifically zoomed in to focus on the women’s faces, knees, elbows and hands. While the notes didn’t detail why they were requesting the images, Mr. Geller had said in his closing that the position of the women’s bodies couldn’t prove they were unconcious.

As the deliberations dragged on Wednesday, a brother of one of the accusers became agitated. As Mr. Kirchner was being handcuffed, the brother yelled at Mr. Kirchner from the courtroom’s gallery.

“Enjoy your freedom, buddy, while you still got it,” the brother shouted. Judge Martin Efman barred the man from the courtroom for the remainder of the trial.

The jury will reconvene Monday morning to discuss the last remaining charge against Mr. Kirchner. Until the trial concludes, he remains held without bail.

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