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Editor's note: This version corrects the age of Kenneth Nieves.
A 23-year-old woman testified in New London Superior Court Monday that former Norwich patrolman Kenneth Nieves was like a father figure to her before he initiated a long-term sexual relationship that began when she was 14 or 15 years old.
The affair lasted until she was 18 and had been living out of state for a period of time, she testified.
"My time away made me realize how wrong and inappropriate and disgusting my relationship with him was," she said.
Now a police officer herself, in a department outside New London County, the woman was on the witness stand during the first day of Nieves' trial. The 45-year-old Nieves is charged with three counts of risk of injury to a minor for allegedly having sex with the girl while she was underage.
A Norwich patrolman from 2002 to 2011, Nieves was arrested last year following an internal affairs investigation within the department that became a criminal investigation when the alleged victim, approached by police in September 2011, disclosed the relationship.
The woman testified that her sister was friends with Nieves' daughter, and their families became close when she was a high school freshman.
Her own father was not part of her life. Her mother, a nurse with medical problems, often had to rely on others to help, she said. Nieves often picked her up — usually in a police cruiser and in uniform — when she worked evenings at a Norwichtown veterinarian clinic. He was nice to her and friendly, she testified.
"I thought there was more of a father-daughter relationship with him and I was quickly proven wrong," she testified.
She had no prior sexual experience when Nieves began flirting and initiated sexual contact with her, she testified. The encounters usually took place in the basement of the veterinarian hospital or in Nieves' cruiser and personal car, she said, describing the sex acts in graphic detail. Nieves gave her gift cards and money. He presented her with a sex toy that was entered into evidence as a court exhibit.
By the time Nieves took her to her school's Father-Daughter dance at her mother's request, their relationship was already sexual and she felt awkward, the woman testified.
"Fathers and daughters don't engage in sexual activity," she said.
She said she never told anyone about her relationship with Nieves until she was approached last year by Norwich Deputy Chief Warren Mocek. She said she hesitated to provide a statement, fearing it would cause problems on her job.
"I decided I had to speak up so no others would be victimized," she testified.
Nieves does not dispute the relationship, but claims the woman was 16, which is the age of consent, when it began.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Charles Tiernan, the woman admitted that Nieves had co-signed a car loan for her and had gifted her a washer and dryer. Tiernan introduced a greeting card the woman had sent Nieves and photographs of the two of them at the dance and at a birthday party in 2010.
Tiernan asked her to be specific about when the relationship started, and she repeatedly replied that it was in the winter of 2003-2004, when she was 14 or 15. Tiernan implied with his questions that because of concerns about her job, she said she was underage when the relationship began so she would appear to be a victim rather than someone of questionable moral character.
Under re-questioning by Prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman, the woman admitted that because she is of small stature working as a police officer, she has to prove herself "more than others."
If presented as a victim, "I would think they would think less of me," she said.