By Mike LaBella
---- — SALEM, Mass. — A defense attorney yesterday tried to discredit the testimony of a 13-year-old boy who claims he was sexually abused by a 20-year-old woman living with him and his family in Haverhill last year.
The defendant, Heather Paltinavich, 21, of Haverhill, is accused of two counts of statutory rape. Her trial began Monday in Essex Superior Court with jury selection and opening remarks and testimony began yesterday.
Defense Attorney Scott Gleason of Haverhill tried to poke holes in the boy’s testimony. At one point the boy said he didn’t exactly know what was happening to his body at the time of the first alleged incident, which police said took place in June of 2012.
The boy testified he had a better understanding of what was happening the second time he had sex with the woman, which allegedly occurred several weeks after the first incident, and that he’d learned about it in health class.
“You said you learned about that sensation in body and health class, which didn’t occur until the fall,” Gleason told the boy. “So where did you learn about it?”
In his opening remarks, Assistant District Attorney James Gubitose asked the jury not to be surprised at the boy’s appearance as he is older now (13) and is taller than he was last year. When Judge Howard Whitehead asked the boy how tall he was, he said he is 5-foot-10.
During his opening remarks, Gubitose said it was a case of rape and that Paltinavich was drunk at the time and that the boy did not know what was happening.
Gleason told the jury that his challenge was to prove Paltinavich’s innocence.
“The hardest thing in the world to explain is when something did not happen,” Gleason said during his opening remarks.
Paltinavich had previously entered pleas of not guilty and has remained confined to her father’s home since her arraignment in superior court in February.
On Oct. 15, 2012, Paltinavich was arrested on a warrant and charged after she allegedly had sex twice with the boy that summer. She was 20 at the time she was charged.
The boy’s mother testified yesterday that she found out about the incidents after her son discovered blood in his urine. She said she had him tested the first week of September and he twice tested positive for chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease. She said her son was prescribed an antibiotic and when tested a third time the results were negative.
The mother later admitted she never notified police about the test that was negative and never provided police investigators with any medical records of her son being tested for a sexually transmitted disease.
After repeated questioning by his mother, the boy admitted having had sex with Paltinavich on two occasions during the summer of 2012. The boy’s mother also testified that Paltinavich had commented to her about her boyfriend having experienced symptoms of pain when urinating.
But during his testimony yesterday, Paltinavich’s boyfriend denied ever having a sexually transmitted disease.
Asked if Paltinavich drank heavily or if he was aware of her problem with cocaine, the boyfriend said “I’m not aware, and “I don’t know.”
The boy told the court that he lives with his mother and a younger brother and that he visits his father in Haverhill regularly. Asked about school, he said his favorite subjects are math and science and that he enjoys playing basketball and football.
The boy said that while Paltinavich stayed with them in their downtown apartment, she slept on the smaller of two couches in the living room.
“Did she drink at all,” Gubitose asked. “Yes,” the boy replied.
“Did you know what she drank,” Gubitose asked. “Beer, the boy replied.
The boy testified that he, his mother and Paltinavich visited Paltinavich’s father at his home in Haverhill on two occasions that summer and that he played basketball and video games with the man’s young sons while the adults drank alcohol.
The boy said that after the first visit he and his mother and Paltinavich returned to their apartment. He said his mother was “passed out” in her bedroom and that Paltinavich went to sleep on the small couch and he fell asleep on the big couch. He said that at one point he woke up and that Paltinavich was tugging at his shoulder.
The boy said Paltinavich took off her clothes and had sex with him. He said he did not know what was happening at the time but later learned about it in health class.
The boy said he visited Paltinavich’s father’s house a few weeks later, during which all the adults were drinking.
He said that when he got home he went into his room and Paltinavich was on the small couch. He said she called to him and he sat beside her.
“I don’t know why I sat beside her,” the boy said. “It was a bad choice.”
He said they had sex again.
Gleason questioned the boy’s knowledge of sex and asked if he talked about it with friends at school.
“You know the term, when a guy gets lucky?” Gleason asked. “Yes," the boy replied.
“If somebody gets real lucky, it’s something guys talk about, right?” Gleason asked. “Yes," the boy replied.
The boy denied telling his friends about it.