Centre County prosecutors and a defense lawyer sketched dueling portraits of a State College man accused of child rape as his trial began Monday.
They alternatively described Jackson C. Baker, 54, as a possessive man who could become manipulative if he did not get his way and as a thoughtful caregiver who was wrongly accused.
Centre County Assistant District Attorneys Megan McGoron and Crystal Hundt, along with defense lawyer Todd Edward Henry, are expected to spend three days trying to convince a jury hearing allegations that Baker raped a 1-year-old in 2019.
Hundt took an equanimous approach, often turning to a whiteboard during her nearly 25-minute opening statement. She wasted little time casting Baker as a controlling man who would get angry if he could not be alone with the child.
Baker, she said, went as far as trying to get custody of the child and hoped she would call him Dad.
"What you hear is not going to be pleasant, but the importance of what we do and what you do is felt on all sides of this," Hundt said. "There is no doubt that this is a very serious matter. This is about what truly happened and it is a search for the truth."
Henry offered an animated defense, telling the eight men and four women on the jury that the case is "smoke and mirrors." The alleged rape, Henry said, "never happened."
Baker was arrested by State College police in June 2019. Two veteran officers - John Aston and detective Craig Ripka - were among the first three to testify Monday.
The third was Brandon Magusiak, a 27-year-old who testified he saw Baker forcing the child to perform oral sex in the basement of a State College home. They were the only three inside the home at the time of the alleged rape.
Magusiak testified he slapped Baker's arm and then ran upstairs, telling McGoron he was "disgusted" and "didn't know what to do."
"I don't think I've ever been that scared in my life," Magusiak testified.
Minutes later, he was also asked why he did not intervene further.
"I just wanted to be out of there," Magusiak testified. "... Maybe I didn't handle it the right way. I think about it all the time."
He did not file a report with police, but told his girlfriend at the time the next day. She shared the information some 12 days later with a State College Area High School counselor.
Magusiak was largely unable to offer detailed testimony about the date of the alleged rape. He mentioned at least three days of the week during the course of the investigation, including two during a recorded interview with Ripka that was played for the jury.
"The devil is in the details," Henry said during his opening statement.
Baker is also charged with one felony count each of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a child, unlawful contact with a minor and corruption of minors. He's also facing four misdemeanors, including witness intimidation.
His trial is scheduled to continue through Wednesday.