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Article updated: 6/24/2013 6:41 PM

Trial starts for Elgin man charged with assaulting preteen

By Barbara Vitello

Cook County prosecutors described a man slowly maneuvering his way into a young girl's personal and sexual life as the trial of 52-year-old Randall Behning of Elgin began Monday in Rolling Meadows.

The pattern of abuse included encouraging the girl to watch pornography, pose clothed and unclothed in photographs and engage in sexual activities over a 2-year period beginning in 2007 when she was 12 years old, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Jason Poje during opening arguments in Behning's bench trial before Cook County Judge Joel Greenblatt.

Behning, arrested in 2011 after the girl told her mother about the abuse, has been charged with predatory criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual assault, child pornography and indecent solicitation of an adult. If convicted of all the charges, Behning faces a minimum of 28 years in prison.

Defense attorney Nischal Raval described Behning as "loving and caring" and the allegations against him as "salacious" and "inconsistent" with the observations of people close to the defendant and his now 18-year-old accuser.

Behning fixed an unwavering gaze upon the young woman who testified Monday that he introduced her to pornography during the fall of 2007 when she was in seventh grade. She said that led to inappropriate touching and sexual intercourse.

The witness testified that she began self-injuring to numb herself and to get attention. Additionally, her grades suffered, although they later improved.

The teen further claimed that Behning posted ads online looking for younger partners for her and that he once invited a male acquaintance to have sex with her but the man refused. She claimed Behning encouraged her to take photos of herself using her cellphone saying, "that's what teenage girls did, and that's how I'd get guys to like me." She said he saved the photos to a flash drive which he hid.

Under cross examination from defense attorney Fred Morelli, the young woman admitted that she began injuring herself to get attention. But when her mother inquired, the girl told her nothing about the abuse.

"So someone asked and you didn't tell," Morelli said.

"Not that time," said the girl. She acknowledged that she didn't tell her mother until later and that she did not tell prosecutors about Behning's acquaintance until recently.

Testimony continues Tuesday in Rolling Meadows.

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