Former Missouri lawmaker Muschany found not guilty on sex charges

Friday, March 20, 2009 | 6:50 p.m. CDT; updated 2:50 p.m. CDT, Saturday, March 21, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — A former lawmaker from St. Louis County was acquitted Friday of sex charges involving the teenage daughter of a mid-Missouri woman with whom he had an affair.

Former Rep. Scott Muschany, 42, was accused of forcing a then-14-year-old girl to touch him after walking into the girl's bedroom naked. Muschany could have faced up to seven years in prison if convicted of the most serious felony deviate sexual assault charge.

Jurors deliberated four hours before finding him not guilty of both the felony and a misdemeanor of exposing his genitals to a minor.

There was little reaction in the courtroom. The teenager, friends who testified for the prosecution and the girl's father sat in the front row close to the jury and quickly left without commenting. Muschany, who was joined by his wife, left without taking any questions from reporters.

Muschany resigned from the House in September, with the charges pending against him.

Defense attorney Robert Haar called no witnesses and said Friday that it showed the weaknesses of the state's case.

"There wasn't evidence that in fact this touching had occurred," Haar said.

Although the case was tried in the Capitol's home of Cole County, the seven men and five women on the jury were selected from Clay County in the Kansas City area.

The girl and her immediate family members are not being identified by The Associated Press because the AP generally does not identify the victims of alleged sex crimes.

The case hinged on whether jurors believed the girl, who testified on Thursday that she thought she was experiencing a nightmare when she awoke one night to find Muschany forcing her to touch him.

A prosecutor and an attorney defending the former lawmaker agreed that on May 17, several hours after the 2008 legislative session ended, Muschany had sex with a mid-Missouri woman with whom the married Republican lawmaker had been having a two-year affair. Later, Muschany walked naked into the bedroom of the woman's daughter, who then was 14 years old.

From there, the accounts diverged.

Haar attempted to portray the girl as a confused teenager who has changed her story several times and might have added or edited out key details because of anger with her mother. Haar said the teen offered different accounts of whether Muschany was squatting or standing over her bed, whether she felt his hand grabbing hers and whether she heard other people in the room.

He warned jurors that the lack of physical evidence or witnesses increased the risk of convicting an innocent man.

"This is the textbook example of the failure of the state to prove these offenses with credible evidence beyond a reasonable doubt," Haar said in his closing remarks to jurors.

Haar said Muschany was looking for a bathroom after having sex with the teen's mother and that the woman eventually followed him upstairs, telling him to be quiet before walking into the girl's bedroom. Muschany told police he didn't know any of the woman's children were home and claimed to follow her into the teen's bedroom out of concern that there was a burglar or intruder.

Prosecutor Anji Gandhi urged jurors to consider why a humiliated teen who has been reluctant to talk about the incident would lie. Gandhi sarcastically suggested that the defense was trying to make the girl out to be an "evil genius" who concocted a fabrication to bring down Muschany. He vividly described the girl's reaction the morning after the incident, asking jurors to consider if that was the reaction of someone being untruthful.

"She walked in her bare feet, in her pajamas, a mile to her friend's house, bawling the whole way," Gandhi said.

Gandhi said the teen hasn't wavered on the most important detail: She awoke while being forced to touch Muschany.

Gandhi left the courtroom without speaking to reporters and did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Cole County prosecutor Mark Richardson also did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Muschany was elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2006 to replace Rep. Catherine Hanaway, who is now the U.S. attorney in St. Louis.

Last May, before the accusations became public, Muschany announced that he would not seek re-election in November to his 87th District House seat. At the time, he denied any scandal and said he wanted to spend more time with his wife and sons. Muschany resigned from the House in September after he was indicted, citing a need to focus on his family and legal defense.

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