CORSICANA, TX -- The alleged victim of a sexual assault of a child by former Ellis County Observer blog publisher Joseph G. Dauben took the witness stand against him today, Jan. 9, in Navarro County.
The 20-year-old, who was 14 when the alleged sexual assault occurred during a church camping trip at the end of September in 2007, claimed the controversial blogger fed him whiskey and seduced him in a shower house at a lake park known as Navarro Mills. The sexual activity included touching and oral and anal sex, he testified in Judge James Lagomarsino's 13th District Court.
The alleged victim said he willingly engaged in sex with Dauben because he didn't want him to think he was "uncool." The former blogger told him all guys fooled around, he said.
"I was confused," the alleged victim said. "I was just doing what I thought would be normal. I didn't want to be weird so I just went with it."
The alleged victim said he saw Dauben a couple of times at Olive Tree Church in Waxahachie prior to the camping trip, but that he didn't know him until the former blogger arrived at the park that day with an inflatable raft boat tied on the top of his car.
During the testimony, he claimed that Dauben brought a bottle of Wild Turkey whiskey to the park with him and poured drinks for him and two other teenagers. Then he suggested they play a game of who could drink the fastest, he said.
Later, the other two teenagers went to their campsite beds, but he and Dauben paddled out into the middle of a cove on the lake next to the campsite, the alleged victim said. While on the boat Dauben started talking about masturbation and oral sex, he said.
"I was taken aback," he said. "I was uncomfortable. Then I started thinking of ways to get back."
The alleged victim said he asked Dauben if he wanted to masturbate and when the former blogger said "yes," he suggested they paddle back to shore to the shower houses. He said he asked Dauben that because the former blog publisher told him he had not masturbated in several days.
"He thought that was a good idea, and he paddled back to the shore," he said. "And I pointed out the showers."
The alleged victim said he went inside the showers with Dauben because the former blogger told him he needed help turning on the shower. Then the blogger told him he got really loud when he masturbated and asked him to stand outside to see if he could hear him.
He said that he didn't hear anything so he returned inside because he "didn't want to be alone." Once inside, he said that he sat down on a bench to wait for Dauben. "I thought he would take a shower and do what he was going to do," he said.
Instead, Dauben came around the wall to where he was sitting, and the former blogger was naked. "I thought it was awkward, but I didn't want to seem uncool," he said.
Dauben started undressing him, and he helped the former blogger finish taking his clothes off, he said. Then he participated willingly in all of the sex acts, he said.
During the graphic testimony, Dauben put his hands over his face and turned away from the jury box. The witness spoke calmly and without emotion, ignoring the former blogger's distress.
Afterwards, the alleged victim said Dauben went to the pastor's tent to go to sleep, and he went to the tent he was sharing with his father and stepmother, he said. The next day when he awakened Dauben had left the camping party, he said. "I was thinking, gross," he said. "It was weird, and I was confused."
The alleged victim said he told a teenage girl who had been drinking with them the night before about what had happened, but she didn't believe him.
In the aftermath of the incident, the alleged victim said he became an angry child. "I was violent," he said.
The prosecutors produced copies of electronic messages exchanged between Dauben and the alleged victim on Oct. 6, 2007. He said that the content of one message made him think Dauben wanted to repeat the activity.
The copy of the messages entered into evidence by the prosecution shows that Dauben sent out a bulletin message to all of his My Space friends telling them that he was in Washington, D.C. at a political meeting. The next message shows that the alleged victim responded to the bulletin with the message, "That's awesome. What exactly are you doing up there?" Dauben responded that he was attending a public policy hearing and said, "Let's get together. I think I hear a shower calling my name."
"I thought he wanted to have sex in the shower because it had happened before," he said.
In another message produced by the prosecution, Dauben writes that he "made a mess" on his keyboard, causing his computer to freeze. That message made him think the former blogger was referring to semen on the keyboard, he said.
The alleged victim said he began to feel confused about his sexual identity, and that he did not want to press charges against Dauben. "I didn't want people to think I was gay, and I didn't want to get in trouble," he said.
By December 2010 when he went to the Child Advocacy Center and gave a statement to them at the bequest of the Navarro County Sheriff's Department and the Texas Rangers, the alleged victim said his attitude had changed. Seeing a picture of Dauben with some teenagers changed his mind, he said.
"I thought no kid should have to go through what I did," he said. "That's when I decided it was my responsibility."
During cross-examination by defense attorney Ed Jendrzey, the alleged victim said he now believes Dauben "raped" him.
The alleged victim also told Jendrzey that he left his father's home once to live with his mother because his stepbrother was "making passes" at him by suggesting games of spin the bottle, that his uncle and brother-in-law had got him drunk before the camping trip once at a wedding and that his father once disappeared for six months because he feared that his stepdaughter was going to file charges of physical assault against him. His step-siblings now live in foster care because his father and stepmother disappeared in August 2008 after he made his "outcry" about being sexually assaulted, he said.
Assistant District Attorney Andrew Wolf also called a sex addiction treatment counselor to the witness stand to testify about his evaluation of Dauben's electronic messaging with the alleged victim and a newspaper article about the former blog publisher.
David Stebbins, a licensed professional counselor for the University of Texas Medical System, testified he determined from the materials sent to him a year ago by the prosecution that Dauben had used the technique of "grooming" to seduce the alleged victim in 2007. That technique is used by sex addicts to gain control of victims, and it can be accomplished in minutes, days, weeks or months, depending upon the individuals involved, he said.
Stebbins said alcohol is often used as part of the grooming process because it breaks down inhibitions.
The defense attorney objected to the testimony because Stebbins had no personal contact with either the alleged victim or Dauben, and he came to court without any of the materials he examined. Judge Lagomarsino allowed the testimony, but he later asked Wolf to get the counselor to fax copies of the documents he examined to the court.
After the prosecutors rested their case, Jendrzey called three witnesses from one family to the stand who contradicted the testimony of the alleged victim. Elizabeth and Sean Gibson said the bottle of Wild Turkey whiskey was brought to the camp by the alleged victim's father, who went missing in August of 2008. He was "not happy" the next day when he found his whiskey missing, they said. "He had a bottle of whiskey that he was very proud of," Elizabeth Gibson said.
Their son Garrett Gibson, who was one of the two teenagers staying up late with Dauben and the alleged victim after everyone else went to bed, claimed Dauben was drinking beer. The former blogger, who was 26 at the time, did not give anyone liquor, and that the alleged victim stole the bottle from his father. Gibson said he was drinking wine, and that the alleged victim was the only one drinking whiskey.
Jendrzey also called Dauben's mother, Cheri Hackler Dauben, to the witness stand, and she testified that the phrase, "I hear a shower calling my name" is one that Dauben frequently uses to end phone calls and get off of computer chats. The former blogger developed a habit of turning on the shower and letting it run for the water to get hot while he did other things, she said.
Dauben's mother said she actually coined the phrase, telling Dauben, "I hear a shower calling your name," when she observed the water running with no one in the shower. "It was annoying to me," she said. "It was something that actually drove me crazy."
Under cross examination by the prosecution, Dauben's mother said that she wouldn't want anything bad to happen to her son, but that she wouldn't be there supporting him if she believed he was guilty of the crime with which he is charged.
The trial, which started on Jan. 7, will continue tomorrow. If Dauben takes the stand to testify in his own defense, it will be at that time.