Natrona County Judge Allows Psychologist Testimony For Tony Cercy
A judge on Tuesday denied the prosecution's request to exclude the expert witness testimony of a Reno, Nev., psychologist in the defense of Casper businessman Tony Cercy, who is scheduled to go on trial for third-degree sexual assault in Thermopolis next month.
However, Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey will not allow Dr. William O'Donohue to bring up some issues that would prejudice the jury, he said during his oral telephonic ruling in the latest of a series of decisions about pre-trial motions.
At the end of an eight-day trial in February, a jury acquitted Cercy of one count of first-degree sexual assault (rape) and one count of second-degree sexual assault of a then 20-year-old woman at his house at Alcova lake on June 25, 2017.
However, the jury could not reach a verdict on the one count of third-degree sexual assault -- sexual contact without penetration -- so Forgey declared a mistrial.
Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen filed a motion to retry Cercy on that count, and Forgey and the Wyoming Supreme Court rejected motions by Cercy to dismiss the count.
In June, Forgey granted Cercy's request to change of venue to Hot Springs County Court because of the pervasive media coverage from his arrest leading to the trial in February, during the trial and afterwards.
Tuesday's hearing marked the latest in the series of motions preceding the trial scheduled to begin Nov. 9.
Cercy's defense team -- Ian Sandefer of Casper, and Pamela Mackey of Denver -- wanted O'Donohue to testify as an expert on sexual assault, as a director of a clinic for treating sexual abuse victims at the University of Nevada-Reno, as a researcher, and as an author.
O'Donohue would testify about reporting of sexual assault, the prevalence of false reports, behaviors associated with true victims of sexual assault and those who falsely report sexual assault, according to Cercy's defense team.
He would not comment on the credibility or truthfulness of the alleged victim, but only to speak about the same issues and rebut the testimony of psychologist Dr. Sherri Vanino of Denver, who spoke during the first trial, according to Sandefer and Mackey.
For example, they said O'Donohue should be permitted to rebut Vanino's testimony about the relationship between alcohol and sexual assault reporting, the effects of trauma on recounting experiences of sexual assault, and possibly fabricating a serious allegation like rape.
During a Sept. 27 hearing, Natrona County District Attorney Mike Blonigen said much of what O'Donohue appeared to want to say during the upcoming trial would speak directly to and illegally to this specific case; that the proposed testimony would amount to profiling, that "certain people do certain things"; and that he would essentially determine the truth or falsehood of witnesses, which is the job of the jury.
O'Donohue said during that hearing he would not say whether the alleged victim had made a false report.
Mackey added that Blonigen can't have it both ways -- wanting Vanino's testimony but not O'Donohue's testimony that would overlap hers.
Tuesday, Forgey said O'Donohue is properly qualified to testify in response to Vanino's previous testimony about issues such as consistent reporting of alleged sexual assault victims, the role of trauma and fear, and the effects of alcohol.
Blonigen will be free to object to testimony during the trial, Forgey added.
But the judge said he would deny some of the testimony that O'Donohue and the defense team wanted to allow, including blaming victims, about whether wives of alleged sexual abusers support their husbands, and false allegations.