- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

A Loudoun County, Va., jury yesterday found a Leesburg lawyer not guilty of sexually abusing his four children, ending a case that had drawn international attention because of its custody issues and the involvement of the World Court at The Hague.
"Ultimately the justice system got it right. We are very gratified," said Alex Levay, an attorney for Bruce McLaughlin. "Now we begin the healing process and slowly easing him back into the lives of his children."
Mr. McLaughlin, 50, was convicted of nine counts of sexual assault in 1998 and sentenced to 13 years in prison. The sentence was vacated last year, when a judge ruled that Mr. McLaughlin had inadequate defense in his trial and ordered a new trial.
The retrial began Dec. 2. The jury was given the case Tuesday and returned their verdict yesterday afternoon.
Mr. McLaughlin has four children sons who were 12 and 10 and twin daughters who were 7 in 1998, the year he last saw them outside a courtroom.
The case began during divorce proceedings in 1998, when Mr. McLaughlin told his wife, Robyn, about an affair he had early in their marriage. He said he told her because he wanted to come clean.
Five days later, on May 21, 1998, Mrs. McLaughlin filed a complaint with the Loudoun County branch of the Virginia Department of Social Services saying he had sexually assaulted their children.
After his conviction, Mrs. McLaughlin took her children to her native New Zealand despite a court order not to do so. In 2000, the World Court, which requires children in international custody cases to remain in their native countries, ordered Mrs. McLaughlin to return them to the United States.
Last year, Loudoun County Circuit Judge Donald Kent ruled that Mr. McLaughlin's original attorneys Harry Volzer and William Schewe did not work hard enough to discern the truth of statements entered as testimony from the children. At issue were notes the children wrote about the supposed abuse and transcripts of interviews conducted by Leesburg police.
Mr. McLaughlin said the transcripts indicated the children answered yes to certain questions that audio recordings of the interviews showed were not answered at all.
In November 2000, a hearing officer for Social Services listened to the children's interviews and read their notes, which appeared to have been written under Mrs. McLaughlin's direction. She declared the charges "unfounded."

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