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updated: 3/19/2011 9:33 AM

Jury finds Rosemont man guilty of sexual assault

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When she asked jurors to find Christopher Cooper guilty of predatory criminal sexual assault, Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Kristin Piper referenced a universal constant.

"Life is a series of choices and the consequences that flow from those choices. This defendant has been making very bad choices over the years," said Piper.

Hold him responsible, she said.

Jurors did. After deliberating for five hours on Thursday, the six-man, six-woman jury found Cooper, 29, guilty of predatory criminal sexual assault and criminal sexual assault of a now 20-year-old woman who testified that he sexually molested for seven or eight years beginning when she was about 6.

"I'm glad it went the way it should," said the woman as she left the courtroom about 9:50 p.m. Thursday.

The woman testified that the molestation culminated in sexual intercourse, which resulted in her becoming pregnant by Cooper in 2004 when she was 13. The woman, who was under the care of Cooper's mother, Patricia Cooper, at the time, testified that she subsequently terminated the pregnancy.

Throughout the trial, Cooper never made eye contact with the jury. He maintained that practice during 90 minutes of closing arguments and during the reading of the verdict late Thursday night.

"I'm disappointed in the verdict," said defense attorney David Sotomayor, who suggested that the 12-hour day and conditions at the overheated courthouse may have affected the jury's deliberations.

During his closing argument, Sotomayor acknowledged that the charges against his client are "horrific, despicable and unconscionable."

"One thing more horrific, despicable and unconscionable than that is to be falsely accused," he said.

Sotomayor referenced a 1970s TV drama when he asked the jury to be a detective like Columbo and look past appearances to determine the truth. He reminded them of testimony from Dr. Veronica Kroin, the pediatrician who treated the victim from 1995 to 2008, during the time the woman said Cooper was molesting her. Kroin, who is not a gynecologist and conducted no gynecological exams of the victim, testified that regular physical exams and checkups of the girl revealed no abnormalities to her genitals and that the girl never indicated she was being abused. Moreover, prosecutors presented no medical evidence to support the allegation of pregnancy or abortion, Sotomayor said.

He questioned the candor of the woman, who earlier admitted under oath that she lied when she said she became pregnant from another boy. The woman claimed she feared Patricia Cooper, who she said had threatened her. Sotomayor reminded jurors that the woman denied being assaulted by Christopher Cooper in 2004 and in 2006, during another investigation of the same charges.

"What you have here is an admitted liar making statements that are false to achieve a certain result," he said.

Sotomayor suggested that police officers bought the woman's story "hook, line and sinker" and instead of gathering facts, they concentrated on securing a confession from Cooper, who Kroin testified suffers from ADHD and a brain injury resulting from his premature birth.

Police understood that Cooper is "not the sharpest tool in the shed" and used that to get a confession which they fed to the defendant, Sotomayor said. Prosecutors played an audiotape for the jury on which Cooper admits assaulting the victim. Cooper previously testified that he told police what they wanted to hear because he feared going to Cook County jail, where he believed he would be assaulted.

The evidence proves Cooper's guilt, insisted Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Sanju Oommen, who rejected defense's claims that police fed Cooper information. Instead, she speculated that Cooper minimized his actions when he realized the severity of the charges. As for the woman not telling medical personnel or anyone else about the abuse, Oommen said she had no choice but to lie or stay silent.

"She knew she couldn't tell the truth because Patricia Cooper was going to find out," Oommen said. "She lied because she was afraid."