Sex charges dismissed when alleged victim declines to testify

New London Superior Court Judge Hillary B. Strackbein dismissed sexual assault charges against two men with prior sex assault convictions Monday after the alleged victim, a teen-age boy, decided he did not want to testify at trial.

George Hammel Jr., 74, of 20 Birch St., Groton, and Gustavo Pereira, 28, of 43 West St., New London, had been charged in May 2011 with forcing a 14-year-old boy into performing sexual acts at the older man’s house between May and November of 2010. Both pleaded not guilty to second-degree sexual assault and risk of injury to a minor. Pereira’s case was headed to trial.

On Monday, prosecutor Theresa Anne Ferryman told the court she would not be prosecuting the men because the victim had communicated through his court-appointed guardian, attorney Lori Hellum, that he did not want to testify.

“This is not a recantation case,” Ferryman said. “He’s just been through a lot of therapy and life events and decided it’s in his best interest not to go forward.”

Based on the state’s decision to “nolle” - not prosecute - the men, defense attorneys Thomas W. Teixeira and Michael A. Blanchard asked the judge to dismiss the charges. Strackbein granted the request.

Teixeira, who represented Pereira, said Hellum had allowed him to meet with the alleged victim. Though it is unusual for a defense attorney to meet with a victim before trial, Teixeira said he thought it would make the teen more comfortable if he had to testify at trial.

“After meeting with me, he decided he didn’t want to testify,” Teixeira said. “The case fell apart.”

The teen had serious memory issues, Teixeira said.

According to an arrest warrant affidavit, Pereira told police he met Hammel while Pereira worked at the Thames Shipyard and Hammel worked for Cross Sound Ferry. He said Hammel would pay him to have sex with various men at Hammel’s house. The alleged victim had said he was sexually assaulted when he went to Hammel’s house to mow the lawn and do other chores.

According to public records, Groton City Police had charged Hammel in 1985 with several counts of second-degree sexual assault, risk of injury to a minor and delivery of alcohol to a minor. He pleaded guilty to three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and received a suspended prison sentence.

Pereira was convicted in South Carolina in April 2003 of second-degree criminal sexual misconduct with a minor under 16 years, according to Connecticut’s sex offender registry.

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