An Elgin man took the witness stand Wednesday to flatly deny he sexually abused a preteen girl in 2007 and 2008.
Randall Behning, 52, confidently answered, "No," when defense attorney Nischal Raval asked him if he ever had any sexual contact with a now-18-year-old girl, who says the abuse began when she was 12 and continued for about 2½ years.
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Behning, an Army veteran, has been charged with criminal sexual assault, predatory criminal sexual assault, child pornography and indecent solicitation of an adult. If convicted on all the charges, he faces a minimum sentence of 28 years in prison.
About 15 of Behning's relatives and friends came out to support him. Several testified that the relationship between Behning and his accuser was good, "never threatening" and "comfortable."
Eugene Roether, of Ottawa, said he's known Behning for about 10 years and never noticed "anything even close" to the accusations.
Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Jason Poje said their observations make complete sense.
"(Behning's) family and friends didn't have a chance to see the truth; they weren't always in his home," Poje said in closing arguments. "We as human beings want to believe we have surrounded ourselves with people of character."
Raval suggested in his closing argument that no one can corroborate the girl's claims that Behning sexually assaulted her.
Photos recovered of the girl wearing lingerie could have been taken by her using a camera timer and not by Behning, Raval said.
He pointed out inconsistencies in testimony between the girl and prosecution witness Kyle Peters, who testified Behning invited him to have sex with the girl but that he chose not to.
Poje rejected Raval's testimony, saying "the question isn't how they (their accounts) were different but how they came up with a story so similar."
There's evidence that the girl's grades dropped in 2008, during the time she says the abuse occurred, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Kristin Piper, which was consistent with her testimony.
Cook County Judge Joel Greenblatt ruled the prosecution could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt whether the victim had been 12 or 13 years old for some of the allegations and dropped three of those counts before the defense presented its case Wednesday morning. The age of the accuser matters for certain charges.
Greenblatt said he will announce his finding at 11 a.m. Friday.