SALEM, Mass. — After about four hours of deliberation, a jury found Heather Paltinavich of Haverhill not guilty of two counts of statutory rape yesterday in Essex County Superior Court in Salem.
Immediately after the jury announced its decision, Paltinavich broke into tears and hugged her defense lawyer, Scott Gleason of Haverhill.
Just moments before, Gleason had asked Paltinavich's family members and friends who were in the courtroom to maintain their composure, no matter what the jury's decision was.
But it was hard to hold back the tears of joy and signs of relief they expressed at the not guilty verdict. After Paltinavich walked out of the courtroom, she appeared elated and told The Eagle-Tribune that she can finally get back to living her life and to her job as a secretary.
Her mother, Wendy Smith, said the trial ended in the way it should have, with a not guilty finding.
"The truth came out ... the truth prevailed," Smith said.
Paltinavich's friend Sheary Adams who testified for the defense during the trial said Paltinavich can now get back to rebuilding her life and making new friends. Adams said many of Paltinavich's friends abandoned her after police brought the child rape charges against her last year, and since that time she's had to endure insults and being called all kinds of derogatory names. She said that even though Paltinavich was found not guilty, the stigma of being publicly accused will long remain.
"The people who knew she was innocent stood by her side," Adams said.
Paltinavich was on trial after being charged with two counts of statutory rape of a 12-year-old boy. The incidents were alleged to have occurred while Paltinavich was staying with the boy, his younger brother and their mother in their apartment in Haverhill.