Trial begins for Corrections Officer accused of sexual abuse

By GARY LIBERATORE

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The trial of a corrections officer accused of having sexual contact with two young girls under the age of 13 got under way in Oneida County Court in Utica on Monday.

Donald Hughes Jr, 50, of Floyd, has been a corrections officer at the Mohawk Correctional Facility in Rome since 1989. He is currently out of jail on bail and has been suspended from his job pending the outcome of the case.

He is accused of the sexual abuse of two young girls in Floyd. The alleged abuse took place over a period of several months between 2010 and 2011 and involved touching, not penetration. Both girls were nine years old when the alleged abuse began.

Hughes' attorney, Richard Bach, maintains that his client is innocent, and he says that is why back in October, Hughes turned down the prosecution's plea offer of ten years in state prison. He now faces up to 50 years if convicted on all counts.

In her opening statements to the jury Monday afternoon, Oneida County First Assistant District Attorney Dawn Catera Lupi told the jury that they will hear from the girls themselves about how Hughes bear-hugged them repeatedly, and then wouldn't let go of their breasts.

Lupi says one of the girls will also testify how Hughes asked her to touch his genitals, and she did, and also that Hughes pushed her head toward his genitals and asked her to put her mouth on them.

Lupi also told the jurors they will hear the videotaped interrogation by New York State Police of Donald Hughes Jr from last April. Lupi says that during that interrogation, Hughes admitted to asking the one girl to touch his private parts, and then pushing her head toward them.

Defense attorney Richard Bach, in his opening statements, told the jury that the section of the videotaped interrogation that will be played by the prosecution came after seven hours of what was called 'pumping and pumping' by investigators to get Hughes to say what they wanted him to say, and Bach says that it is not a confession.

Bach also told jurors that one of the girls is a special education student and that both girls' credibility will come under question.

Investigators from both the Oneida County Sheriff's Office and the New York State Police are expected to take the stand and testify in the case on Tuesday, followed by testimony from the two young victims themselves, and then their mothers.

Finally, the defendant himself, Donald Hughes, may take the stand in his own defense sometime on Wednesday. He is the only witness expected to testify for the defense.

The trial is expected to wrap up late Wednesday or midday Thursday.

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