LOCK HAVEN - Convicted child abuser Adonica Sipe-Dixon will not get a new county-level trial on charges she abused her two boys in Clinton County back in 1998.
Late last week, Clinton County Judge Craig Miller issued an order turning away Dixon's request for a new trial, saying the new evidence - one of her son's recanted testimony seven years after her conviction - was just not credible.
The recanted testimony was presented late last year as "after-discovered" evidence, which requires the meeting of four specific standards before being accepted. In this case, Judge Miller said, four of the five standards were met, but in that most critical standard- credibility - the challenge fell short.
The recanted testimony also sparked a hearing last month, during which a request for a new trial was made on behalf of Dixon, convicted in 2005 of rape in the sexual assault of her two sons by her and her boyfriend in 1998.
Local attorney Paul Ryan represented Dixon.
Clinton County District Attorney Mike Salisbury represented the Commonwealth.
The issue arose after the alleged victim, now 20, offered a written statement saying, "At no time was I sexually assaulted or touched inappropriately by my mother ... nor was she ever aware I was sexually assaulted or touched inappropriately by another person."
At the hearing, the young man offered a rambling overview of his days since the trial, noting his trouble with the law, bouts of homelessness, his commitment in several in-house counseling centers, his joblessness and his conflicts with his families, both natural and adopted.
He remained adamant that his testimony in 2005 was false, but offered little explanation behind that claim, other than "people getting me to say things."
Dixon was the subject of a jury trial in July of 2005 and was convicted on a large number of criminal counts involving sexual abuse.
On Oct. 17, 2005, she was sentenced to 22 to 80 years in state prison for her crimes.
Ryan argued the "after-discovered evidence" was sufficient to justify a Post Conviction Relief Act action by the court to order a new trial.
Salisbury suggested the young man had been influenced to reverse his accusations at trial by his natural family members, including his sister, aunts and uncles, and grandfather. He also argued the untimely nature of the statement, coming as it did well after the trial, and months after the statement first came to light, violated the appeals rules of the state.
Ryan countered by placing both himself and attorney David Strouse on the stand, in efforts to establish a tighter timeline, and indicate that, at least for a time, the young man was unavailable to offer a sworn statement because he couldn't be found.
Judge Miller found that argument valid, and said he couldn't turn away the legal motion on the basis of untimeliness.
However, the judge also found that the new testimony did not undermine the criminal case to a degree that requires a new trial. Last August, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and denied an appeal by Dixon on related matters.
The prosecution alleged Dixon's young boys were raped by Dixon and her boyfriend. The incidents occurred between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 1998, according to police records.
Dixon's co-defendant, Carl Edward Conser, formerly of Pine Creek Township and Jersey Shore, pleaded guilty to two counts of rape in connection with sex acts with the children. He is serving 10 to 40 years in a state prison.
Judge Miller said the higher courts consider recantation testimony exceedingly unreliable. The measures for determining if recantation testimony is excepted include:
- Was the evidence discovered after trial?
- Is the evidence merely corraborative or is it cumulative?
- Will the evidence be solely used to impeach the credibility of a witness?
- Is the evidence of such nature and character that a different verdict would likely result if a new trial was granted?
As to the final prong of the test, the credibility and the significance of the recantation in light of the evidence as a whole, Judge Miller said, "It is the duty of this court to deny a new trial where it is not satisfied that such testimony is true. This court finds that the evidence of recantation is not credible."
Dixon's attorney was given 30 days to file an appeal of this decision to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.