Section: LOCAL & STATE
Source: BY RON SYLVESTER, The Wichita Eagle
A high school sophomore changed her story when she testified about her relationship with dirt-track stock-car champion Larry McDaniels.
The 51-year-old has been charged with engaging in lewd fondling and sexual intercourse with the 15-year-old.
“You never had sex with this man here at any time?” defense lawyer Charlie O’Hara asked her on cross-examination, gesturing toward McDaniels.
“That’s correct,” the girl said at McDaniels’ preliminary hearing Thursday. That was a different story from what she’d told to police and a nurse, and what she’d written in a letter six weeks ago.
Sedgwick County District Judge Ben Burgess, citing Kansas case law about conflicting testimony, ruled that McDaniels should stand trial for aggravated indecent liberties.
“When there’s conflicting testimony, the judge must accept the version most favorable to the state,” Burgess said.
The judge recounted evidence presented by prosecutor Christine Ladner that Burgess said established probable cause:
— A Bel Aire police officer’s testimony that he saw a pickup in a remote area on Aug. 26. Inside, the officer found McDaniels and the girl with her pants down.
— Testimony by a nurse examiner, who said the girl reported having sexual intercourse with McDaniels.
— After McDaniels’ arrest, the girl wrote him a letter, which she asked a Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy to deliver. “The lady said that since I’m 15, you might get off with probation,” the girl wrote. “So I pretty much told them everything. . . . We had only pretty much been having sex for a month, and that we’d only had that five times.”
As she took the witness stand Thursday, the girl smiled at McDaniels, who had been her racing coach.
She told O’Hara she felt pressured by authorities and health care investig ators to tell them what they wanted to hear.
Burgess said his job is not to judge the credibility of witnesses. That’s for a jury.
“It’s very apparent from the tone of her testimony, she has some affection for Mr. McDaniels,” Burgess said in his ruling. “And as a young lady of 15 she may think she can make some decisions on her own, and whether or not to have consensual sex may be one of them. But the law says otherwise.”
The age of legal consent in Kansas is 16.
The girl’s mother told the judge that she’d learned over the past month that her daughter had been contacted by McDaniels’ wife, Donna, after her husband was charged.
Ladner told the judge there was an investigation into “pressure” on the girl to change her story.
Burgess set arraignment for this morning. O’Hara said McDaniels will plead not guilty.