Former Columbia County Commissioner Scott Dean is hoping for a new trial after his 19-year-old adopted daughter admitted she lied in court
Scott Dean is sitting in a Columbia County jail just waiting.
Waiting to find out whether he will be sent back to his cell in a Georgia State Prison in rural Reidsville.
Waiting to see if he will be forced to serve out the rest of his 20-year sentence for allegedly molesting his adoptive daughter.
Waiting to learn if he will be given a second chance to clear his name.
The former Columbia County commissioner, represented by his attorney Pete Theodocion, went before Superior Court Judge James Blanchard Jr. late last week petitioning for a new trial based on the fact that his 19-year-old adopted daughter, Silda, has now admitted that she lied during her testimony in 2011.
Silda, who was adopted from Guatemala in 2008 by Scott Dean and his wife, Renee, along with her other four siblings, alleged in 2010 that the former mayor of Harlem had inappropriately touched her “between the legs” when she was 15. She also accused Dean of exposing himself to her while propositioning her for sex on a separate occasion in 2010.
But last week, Silda, now 19, testified in court that she made up the entire story.
“It was a lie,” Silda plainly told Judge Blanchard on the stand.
“Did Scott Dean ever touch you between your legs?” Theodocion asked Silda on Friday.
“No, he didn’t,” she quickly replied. “Did he ever expose himself to you?” Dean’s attorney asked.
Again, Silda said, “No, he didn’t.”
“Did Scott Dean ever do anything inappropriate toward you?” Theodocion asked.
“No, he didn’t,” she calmly replied.
Silda told the court that she made up the molestation stories because she did not want to stay in the Dean household. She felt unwanted by Scott Dean’s wife, Renee.
Once the lies started, Silda said she felt pressure “from everybody” to stick to her story.
“I don’t know how to explain it, but it was hard for me to say something that wasn’t true,” Silda said in court, adding that she was confused about what to do. “I was scared, too.”
Finally, she sat down with her foster mother and decided to tell the truth.
“I told her that everything that I did say in court was a lie,” Silda said, adding she also informed the state Department of Family and Children Services in July 2012 that she had made up the accusations against Scott Dean.
But to the Dean family’s surprise, DFCS allegedly never acted on the information Silda provided to the department.
“How do you feel about the fact that Scott Dean is in prison?” Theodocion asked Silda on Friday.
“I feel sad,” Silda said. “Sometimes I feel bad, too, because he is innocent.”
Silda added that she feels very guilty about the 20-year prison sentence that Scott Dean is currently serving.
“Would you like him released?” Theodocion asked.
“Yes, I would,” Silda replied.
After Silda’s testimony on Friday, Theodocion pleaded with the court to allow a new trial to reconsider the allegations against Scott Dean.
Clearly, Silda is a completely different young woman than the 17-year-old who insisted she had been molested during the 2011 trial, Theodocion said.
“Her demeanor. Her seriousness in court today. The energy behind her testimony.
This is a much different Silda Dean than we saw in December 2011,” Theodocion said. “Obviously, she is older now and she is clearly more comfortable with her English, but her testimony today has the kind of zeal to it that we didn’t see before.
“This is Silda Dean saying, ‘I lied. My entire allegations and the entire case against Mr. Dean was a fraud.’”
Scott Dean deserves another trial in order to seek the truth, Theodocion said.
“We’ve got the lone accuser coming forward and saying, ‘It didn’t happen. I feel guilty that I lied. I want this man out,’” Theodocion said, adding that Dean’s request for a new trial meets the six requirements needed for such a request before the court. “This is a wrong that needs to be righted.”
However, Assistant District Attorney Madonna Little insisted that simply because Silda recanted her testimony does not mean that Scott Dean should automatically be granted a new trial. Blanchard agreed, but insisted that he would consider the request and make a ruling within the next few weeks.
After the hearing, Renee Dean watched her husband shuffle out of court and return to jail. She could barely contain her emotions.
“I think the judge said he would take a week to 10 days to think about it. But it’s hope,” Renee Dean said, as tears streamed down her face. “That’s all we have now is to hold onto hope.”
As difficult as these past few years have been on the entire Dean family, Renee Dean said she was extremely proud of Silda for telling the truth.
“I think she did a great job,” Renee Dean said. “She did something very difficult today and I’m very proud of her for holding her head high and admitting what she’s done and trying to make it right.”
She paused as she tried to collect herself.
“I’m her mom,” Renee Dean said. “I understand. It is difficult. It is very difficult. She is a troubled girl and I’m her mother. And I love her and I know what she is going through, too.”
While supporters of Dean realize seeking a new trial is an uphill battle, there is no doubt that the original case against the former Columbia County commissioner has changed drastically since 2010.
Prior to Dean’s original trial in 2011, his oldest adopted daughter, Marlin, allegedly told investigators in the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office that Scott Dean also tried to have sex with her. These accusations emerged after Marlin, then 17, ran away to Mexico with her boyfriend, who happened to be an illegal immigrant.
But during the 2011 trial, Marlin recanted those allegations, insisting that she lied to investigators in order to make people feel sorry for her, so they would feel pressure to send her money in Mexico.
“I left (the Dean home) because I wanted to be with my boyfriend,” Marlin told the court in the original 2011 trial. “My letter said I leave because two reasons: my mom and my boyfriend.”
Marlin testified that there had been a lot of tension at home between her adopted mother, Renee, and herself.
It wasn’t until representatives from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office continued to try and reach Marlin that she decided to tell them that Dean had allegedly molested her.
“I was tired of them calling me all the time,” Marlin, then 18, testified in 2011. “I didn’t want to talk to nobody… When somebody asks you many questions all the time and keeps pushing, you’re going to say what they want to hear.”
But on the stand, much like Silda’s testimony this week, Marlin said her entire story was a lie.
“Marlin, do you know the difference between mother and daddy kisses and boyfriend and girlfriend kisses?” Theodocion asked in the 2011 trial. “And do you know what sex is?”
“Yes, sir, I do,” Marlin responded.
“Has Mr. Dean ever given you an improper hug?” Theodocion asked.
“No, sir. Never,” Marlin replied.
“Has he ever touched your breasts?” Theodocion asked. “Has he ever touched you in between your legs?”
Again, Marlin said Dean had never touched her inappropriately.
“Has he ever crawled in bed with you?” Theodocion asked. “And kissed you?”
“Never,” Marlin said in 2011, adding that he never attempted to have any kind of sexual relationship with her.
Despite her older sister’s insistence that Dean had not acted inappropriately, Silda was firm in her testimony in 2011 that the former mayor of Harlem had made sexual advances towards her and Marlin.
“Now, before Marlin left, did Mr. Dean ever come into your room at night?” Assistant District Attorney Parks White asked Silda in 2011. “Do you recall an incident where Mr. Dean touched you in the night?”
Silda told the court that she remembered Dean came into her room one night when everyone was sleeping.
“He came into my room, lied down next to me and starting touching me,” she said, adding that he was touching her with his hands under her clothes. “Between my legs and my genitals.”
She also testified that on a separate occasion Dean came into her bathroom wearing only a towel and exposed himself to her. At the time, Silda said there was no one else in the house.
“I was in my room looking for clothes and then he came in,” Silda testified in 2011, adding that she was shocked by Dean’s behavior. “He told me that he want to have sex with me… I told him that it was not right and I left running.”
Silda also testified in 2011 that she had concerns about the way Scott Dean regularly behaved around Marlin, explaining that he would treat her “like she was a his girlfriend or his wife.”
In fact, Silda stated that she had seen Scott Dean kiss Marlin on the mouth like a “wife and a husband.”
Silda’s younger sister, Sindy, who was also adopted by the Dean family, also testified in the 2011 hearing that she witnessed Scott Dean entering the girls’ room at night and climbing into bed with Marlin.
Sindy, who was 14 at the time of the 2011 trial, said Scott Dean would kiss Marlin on the mouth.
“Was it a long kiss or a short kiss?” White asked Sindy.
“A long kiss,” Sindy replied, adding that she would pretend to be asleep while Scott Dean was in the room.
During the 2011 trial, Theodocion attempted to bring to light allegations that Silda had allegedly lied to a Guatemalan judge in a previous attempt to help the family get out of their abusive home.
Theodocion claimed that Silda told the judge that her biological father had killed her twin brother. However, Judge Blanchard didn’t not allow the testimony because her statements before the Guatemalan judge did not deal with an alleged sex crime.
But according to Theodocion’s request before the judge, Silda’s biological father was apparently physically abusive to the family and also sexually abused Marlin.
“Your life there was miserable, wasn’t it?” Theodocion asked Silda of her life in Guatemala.
Silda agreed that it was horrible and she and her siblings were attempting to get away from their parents. As a result, she was asked to testify before a judge in Guatemala.
“And you went before a judge and told that judge in Guatemala that your father, Osvaldo, had murdered your twin brother, Danny, didn’t you?” Theodocion asked.
“I don’t remember that,” Silda answered.
White objected to Theodocion’s line of questioning.
But Theodocion asked Blanchard to allow the jury to hear about Silda’s prior testimony in the Guatemala court.
“Judge, we’ve got a girl who we think the evidence is going to show — and we’ve got a lot of witnesses to back it up — that when she was in the process of trying to move to a different location in Guatemala, that she made false accusations against her natural father,” Theodocion said. “Marlin Dean will be prepared to testify that they were going in before a judge down there and she had a discussion with Silda about where they wanted to live, and then Silda knowingly told the judge, ‘My father killed my brother.’ In fact, the brother had died in his sleep.”
Theodocion insisted that Silda was repeating the past by lying about Scott Dean’s behavior in order to be placed somewhere else since she was having problems getting along with Renee Dean.
But Blanchard denied Theodocion’s request.
“Well, the court’s not going to permit it and the reason is, is this is a specific bad act,” Blanchard said, adding that Theodocion couldn’t simply present evidence that Silda may have a history of lying. “Now, were it a sexual molestation (case), the court would seriously consider that. But who are you going to get next, the elementary school teacher said the dog ate the homework and bring them in?”
The crushing blow to the 2011 case, according to many of Dean’s supporters, was the judge’s decision to allow the testimony of two twin sisters from West Virginia who were childhood friends with Scott Dean.
Both women told the jury that Scott Dean had been invited to an overnight birthday party in 1984 at their house when the girls were 12 and Scott Dean was 14.
The twin sister testified in court that Scott Dean
inappropriately touched them while they were sleeping.
“During the night at some point in time, I was asleep on a mattress in our basement on the floor and I woke up during the night feeling like I was in a struggle and feeling that my hands were being pulled behind me,” one sister told the jury. “And then I remember feeling that in my hands, I couldn’t understand what I was feeling because I didn’t understand what soft, warm, squishy material I was feeling.”
The woman testified that Scott Dean had placed her hand on his genitals and was attempting to get her to “massage” that area.
“I felt panic take over and I didn’t know what to do,” the one sister said, explaining that she attempted to get her hands back down by her side. “I finally got my hands back and I thought, ‘Well, if I just ask him what he’s doing, maybe he won’t hurt me.’ So I just simply said, ‘Scott, what are you doing?’ And I tried to say it very quietly so I didn’t wake anybody else up. And he just said, ‘I must have fallen off the couch.’” She explained that Scott Dean had been sleeping on a sofa next to the mattress on the floor.
“He snapped his underpants back up,” the woman testified. “I still can, to this day, hear a snap of elastic.”
The woman explained that she stayed still on the mattress for a short amount of time because she was afraid to move. Her sister and a friend were allegedly sleeping next to her on the mattress.
“I didn’t know if he would try to follow me or try to do more or anything like that,” she said, explaining that she eventually rushed upstairs and hid in a chair with her father’s coat thrown over her head until morning. “I was scared for my life.”
During the trial, her twin sister also testified that Scott approached her during then night and touched her without her consent.
“I was sleeping in my basement and I felt my nightgown being pushed up and I wasn’t really sure what was happening,” she told the jury in 2011. “I know there were hands on me and I was not familiar with that feeling. I opened my eyes just a little and Scott was beside me and I kept feeling a pinching feeling at my breasts and I was scared.”
The sister claimed that Scott Dean also put her hands on his genitals.
“That continued for a short while and then I felt a liquid or gel — at the time I remember thinking syrup— land on me,” the twin sister testified. “It was warm. I didn’t like the smell. I didn’t know what it was.” She later learned that Scott Dean had allegedly ejaculated on her. The twin testified that she used a nightgown and a blanket to wipe herself off. Her first impulse was to run into her parents’ room, but she was afraid she would get in trouble, even though she knew that she didn’t consent to Scott Dean’s advances.
After the twins’ testimony, Theodocion insisted what allegedly occurred in West Virginia almost 30 years ago had no bearing on the child molestation charges against Scott Dean involving Silda in 2011.
“You know, the activity of a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old as compared to a 40-year-old and a 15-year-old, you know, that’s night and day,” Theodocion said. “It’s just not the same.”
However, the judge disagreed and allowed the jury to hear the twin’s testimony.
When Scott Dean took the stand in his defense in 2011, he denied all the allegations against him. He insisted that he never inappropriately touched his adopted children or the twins from West Virginia.
“We played show and tell,” Scott Dean told the jury in 2011, referring to the slumber party in 1984. “You know, I was 14 and a half, they were 12 and a half, but they were a promiscuous 12 and a half.”
Scott Dean told the court that his encounter with the West Virginia twins was his first sexual experience of that nature.
“One of them did touch me on the penis,” he said. “But it was consensual. It was completely consensual.”
As far as Scott Dean’s feeling about his five adopted children from Guatemala, he told the jury that he was “changed” the minute the members of his mission trip walked into an orphanage in Zacapa, Guatemala in 2004.
“I actually met Marlin that (first) week. She was 11 years old,” Scott Dean testified in 2011. “I was changed. It broke me a lot. It made me a lot more humble just to see that kind of experience of the abject poverty and the situation there. The heart wrenching thing is the next year, 2005, we flew back.”
The members of the church returned to the same orphanage.
“When we pulled up to the private orphanage, I was one of the first ones in our group to get out of the van. When I got out of the van, Marlin came flying up,” Scott Dean said. “It’s been a year since she had seen this, what they call Gringo, this white guy. She jumped into my arms.”
Scott Dean testified that Marlin couldn’t believe he had returned.
“And it broke me,” he said. “I mean, it was the most emotional thing I had ever seen in my life. And I called my wife that night and I said, ‘Hey, I think I found you a daughter.’ And she said, ‘Well, if it’s Guatemalan, she’ll fit in your suitcase. Pack her up and bring her home.’”
In the days that followed, Scott Dean said that he met Silda, Sindy and their baby siblings Byron and Mimi. He told his wife, Renee, that he wanted to adopt all five of the children.
“She said, ‘I don’t think your suitcase is that big,’” Scott Dean said.
But Scott Dean said he felt extremely passionate about adopting the children
“I felt it was a calling to adopt these five because nobody was crazy enough to adopt five children,” Scott Dean testified in 2011. “But the process was grueling. It took us three years. It took us the better part of $100,000. It took us renovating our house.”
Scott Dean traveled to Guatemala more than a dozen times before the adoption was finalized and the couple was able to bring the children home in 2008.
“It was a blessing from God to bring them home,” Scott Dean said in 2011. “But it was overwhelming on us.”
There was a great deal of tension between the girls and Renee Dean, he said.
“The girls tended to get along with me better,” he said. “I spent a lot more time in Guatemala than Renee did, so I built their relationship with me a lot of time there.”
There was a power struggle between Renee Dean and both Marlin and Silda, Scott Dean said.
“It was frictional,” he said. “They fought a lot. They argued a lot. There was one instance where Silda and Renee got into a serious altercation on the stairs of our house.
Silda screamed at Renee that, ‘You will never be my mother.’”
As far as the allegations that he ever inappropriately touched his adopted daughters, Scott Dean denied ever doing anything romantic or sexual with them.
“Was it common for you to crawl into bed with any or all of your children?” Theodocion asked Scott Dean during the 2011 trial.
Scott Dean replied that is was very common.
“When we first got the children home, the girls, the three big girls, had adjustment issues,” he said. “I would lay down. We would talk. That’s when I was learning Spanish because I was very, very pitiful in my Spanish.”
In particular, Scott Dean testified that Silda suffered from extremely bad dreams at night.
“For the first six months, she had night terrors and she would basically have to be held down or she would hurt herself,” Scott Dean said, adding that he would put his arms around her and hold her, but he never touched her in a sexual manner.
“The only misinterpretation I would ever say that happened is, yes, I did wear a towel occasionally when I went from my bedroom, which was in the front of the house, to the laundry room,” Dean said. “Because I’m a typical man. I wake up and go take a shower. I don’t think about getting my clothes. I just take the shower.”
Previously, when the Deans only had their two biological sons in the house, Scott Dean said he didn’t think twice about walking from the shower to the laundry room in a towel.
But Scott Dean said he never took off his towel in front of Silda and never indicated that he wanted to have sex with her.
“If I got out and there was no clean clothes, I’d have to go back to the laundry room,” he said. “And this was part of the adjustment of learning to go from boys who it didn’t bother to the girls. I didn’t know it bothered Silda.”
Following last week’s hearing and request for a new trial, now all that is left for the Dean family is to wait for Judge Blanchard’s ruling.
But the wait is excruciating, according to Renee Dean.
“We’re going on three years of a nightmare, but we are holding on,” Renee Dean said after the hearing. “We know that there is a plan somewhere. And we are just doing our best to hold our heads high.
“We know Scott is innocent. We’ve always known that he is innocent. There is no question. There has never been a question.”