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Expert testifies on ability to consent in rape trial

A mentally disabled woman, who police said was raped or sexually assaulted numerous times, is unable to give consent as a result of her impairment, a psychologist testified Thursday.

Bruce D. Stuart, 60, of 316 Ridge Top Road, in Eldred Township, is facing 32 felonies and 28 misdemeanor charges related to the alleged rape, sexual and indecent assault, and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of a mentally disabled woman between January 2009 and July 2018.

He was arrested in early February, but was released on Feb. 21 when his $100,000 bail was allowed to remain unsecured.

As a part of ongoing pre-trial motions, Joseph Ruby, assistant district attorney, attempted to prove the victim was unable to understand any sexual act, meanwhile Defense Attorney Robert Hoffa attempted to prove an interview of Stuart was illegally obtained.

Senior Judge Kenneth D. Brown, presiding, allowed Hoffa 30 days to either obtain another expert’s testimony or continue with proceedings. A ruling will then be forthcoming.

“I do not believe she is capable of consent,” said Scott Scotilla, a State College psychologist who examined the victim.

Specifically classifying her as moderately mentally disabled, Scotilla said she reads and writes at a third-grade level and is capable of the arithmetic as seen in a fourth grader.

Though tests administered by Scotilla indicate an IQ of 40, “I disqualified the answers because she discontinued her engagement … she stopped responding” and became frustrated with the test, he said.

In interviews with the victim and two of her family members, it was clear she lacked the ability to live independently, be safely productive and manage money. Scotilla said she generally lacked skills of daily living.

“I believe (her disabilities) could extend back to 2009,” said Scotilla, when the first incidents allegedly happened.

Throughout medical records, job failures and observances, the victim’s disabilities persisted.

“I have no information to tell me that anything had changed,” he said.

Defense Attorney Hoffa challenged Scotilla’s court-recognized expertise, claiming he was not sufficiently credentialed because he lacked certification by American Board of Professional Psychology.

Additionally, Scotilla was basing his diagnosis on interviews with the victim’s family, who had an agenda, Hoffa said.

However, Scotilla’s extensive history as both a psychologist and one who has been stipulated as an expert in court numerous times led Judge Brown to overrule Hoffa.

After Scotilla said he would have had to ask for their medical records and family assistance in understanding the victim’s history, Judge Brown overruled Hoffa on his second objection as well.

As for the state police interview of Stuart, Hoffa said the accused was not adequately notified of his right to speak with a lawyer and was pressed to continue speaking on the matter.

A court ruling will be issued once the hearing is concluded.

In total Stuart is charged with rape by forcible compulsion, rape by threat of forcible compulsion, rape of a mentally disabled person, and strangulation, all felonies.

He faces four counts each of the following: indecent deviate sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion, indecent deviate sexual intercourse by threat of forcible compulsion, aggravated indecent assault without consent, aggravated indecent assault by forcible compulsion, aggravated indecent assault by forcible compulsion, aggravated indecent assault by threat of forcible compulsion, aggravated indecent assault of a mentally disabled person, also all felonies.

He also faces seven counts each of the following: Indecent assault without consent, Indecent assault by forcible compulsion, Indecent assault by threat of forcible compulsion and indecent assault of a person with a disability, all misdemeanor charges.

Stuart is next slated to be in court at 9 a.m. Dec. 12 before Judge Nancy L. Butts at the Lycoming County Courthouse.