Ex-FSW registrar preps for rape trial

The mother of the alleged victim (far right) is questioned by the defense lawyer Scott Moorey (far left) while defendant Garnett Salmon (left) and Judge Robert Branning (right) look on. Courtroom drawing by Heliodoro Hinestroza

By Lianna Hubbard

When FSW’s former registrar, Garnett Salmon, goes on trial for rape, the court will hear testimony of the mother of his alleged victim and the forensic psychologist who interviewed his teenage accuser.

That is the result of a hearing in a circuit court on Nov. 22 in front of Judge Robert Branning.

Branning ruled that the testimonies of the girl’s mother and an interviewer about the victim’s accounts of the alleged crimes will be admitted into evidence.

“The Court finds the statements of the child victim, as reported by Ms. McLaughlin and [the mother] to be trustworthy,” the motion allowing the testimonies read.

Such second-hand testimony is often not allowed into court because it is hearsay, which is when a witness testifies not about something they witnessed, but about what someone else told them. The exception was granted because the alleged victim was a child.

“The purpose of the child hearsay hearing requires that the court determine whether the witness that testifies is reliable and whether the circumstances as well as the time and content of the statement are reliable,” Heather Fly, the state’s prosecution in the case, said in her closing statement at the hearing. “It is up to the jury to determine whether the child is reliable.”

Salmon is on trial for custodial sexual battery. The sexual abuse allegedly started when the alleged victim was 13 and Salmon was 34. The alleged sexual abuse continued for three years.

Salmon was arrested on March 18. He resigned from his FSW position ten days later.

The mother of the alleged victim testified at the hearing, along with April McLaughlin, a Child Protection Team case manager who did a forensic interview with the alleged victim that led to Salmon’s arrest,

The mother’s testimony gave new insights into the case.

“[The alleged victim] still has not told me in details,” the mother testified. “She’s still scared about my feelings. She doesn’t want to hurt me.”

According to the mother’s testimony, she learned about the alleged sexual abuse during an argument with her daughter.

The daughter had a boy over to her house without the mother’s permission. The mother confronted her about it.

“She walked away a little bit and then she came back and she said ‘Promise me you’ll never not love me,’” the mother testified.

The alleged victim then disclosed the sexual abuse.

McLaughlin’s testified that the last time the alleged victim saw Salmon was in September 2017. The teenager told the mother about the alleged sexual abuse, who reported it to a Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer in November 2018.

McLaughlin interviewed the victim in December of the same year.

Besides the hearsay testimonies, many other pieces of evidence have been entered into the trial.

Salmon’s lawyer, Scott Moorey, has taken 10 video-taped statements, including one from the alleged victim and the mother at the beginning of this month.

The prosecutor submitted a list of 10 witnesses to testify and logged many pieces of evidence, including a download of the alleged victim’s phone.

After the court approved a motion to amend the conditions of his release from jail in April, Salmon had the right to see his 8-year-old daughter under the supervision of the daughter’s mother. He still wears a tracking ankle monitor but is currently working as a musician in Cape Coral.

The trial will continue into next year. By then, the alleged victim will be 18 years old and will testify, according to a document from the prosecution.

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