- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

GEORGETOWN, Del. (AP) - A girl who claims she was waterboarded by her mother’s longtime companion, a former pediatrician, said under cross-examination Tuesday that she has lied several times about her treatment at home and about whether she told authorities about alleged abuse.

Her testimony came in the trial of Melvin Morse, 60, who is facing endangerment and assault charges.

Under questioning by an attorney for Morse, the 12-year-old acknowledged that she has given conflicting statements over the years, including about the last time she says she was waterboarded. She has described waterboarding as Morse holding her head under a running faucet, making it difficult for her to breathe. She said he used it as punishment.

Waterboarding simulates drowning and it has been used in the past by U.S. interrogators on terror suspects. Many critics call it torture.

On Monday, under questioning by prosecutors, the girl said she was last waterboarded about two weeks before she ran away from home in July 2012. But in a videotaped interview from August 2012 that was shown to jurors, the girl indicated that it last happened about a year earlier, in August 2011.

The girl also was asked about conflicting statements she has given about whether she ever told anybody about what was going on. At times, she has said she tried to tell friends, school officials, a therapist and “everybody I could,” but that people apparently either didn’t believe her or didn’t do anything. But in a pretrial proceeding last year, the girl testified under oath that she had never told her friends.

“I didn’t tell anyone because I was afraid dad would find out about it and get mad,” she said of the man she learned only recently wasn’t her father.

If convicted on each of four felony counts of reckless endangering, Morse could face up to 20 years in prison, but the presumptive sentence for each count is up to 15 months in prison. He faces up to a year in prison for each of five misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and up to a year on one misdemeanor assault charge.

Morse has authored several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences involving children. He has appeared on shows such as “Larry King Live” and the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to discuss his research, which also has been featured on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” and in an article in “Rolling Stone” magazine.

Morse has specifically denied police claims that he may have been experimenting on the girl.

The girl also testified that she lied to authorities in 2010 when she told them she had been sexually molested by a female relative on Christmas Eve 2009. But she maintains that a 2007 molestation, for which the same relative was sent to juvenile detention, actually happened.

“The second time she did it was a lie,” said the girl, explaining that she didn’t want the relative living with the family.

On Monday, the girl had testified that Morse repeatedly spanked and hit her, including once in 2008 when he slapped her so hard in the face that she was knocked off her feet and couldn’t see properly. But in a 2010 interview by a child advocacy worker, she said she was never spanked when she got in trouble, and she acknowledged Tuesday that the face slap, which resulted in a family services investigation, left “hardly” any mark on her face the next morning.

“Does that mean no?” asked defense attorney Joseph Hurley.

“Yes,” the girl replied.

The girl also admitted that she violated prohibitions against trying to contact Morse after his 2012 arrest, and against talking to her mother and younger sister about the case. She admitted telling her younger sister that the only way they could leave foster care and return home was if Morse was in jail.

The girl’s mother, Pauline Morse, agreed last year to plead guilty to misdemeanor child endangerment charges and to testify against Melvin Morse. Defense attorneys have suggested that Pauline is cooperating with authorities in an attempt to regain custody of the girl and her younger sister, who remain in foster care but are allowed supervised visits with their mother.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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