- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Christopher S. Honig, 32, of Lusby was found not guilty Friday by a Calvert County Circuit Court jury of inappropriately touching and soliciting sexual favors from a then-15-year-old girl between August and December of 2011.
Honig was initially charged in August 2012, one year after the initial alleged incident, and later indicted on one count of fourth-degree sex offense and sexual solicitation of a minor.
The girl, now 16, was the first witness to testify during the trial, which began Wednesday, Feb. 6. She testified she has known Honig since she was in about the eighth grade and considered him a father figure. Honig used to give her rides to her friend’s house, the girl testified, and he never made her feel uncomfortable until June 2011 when “he got really weird.”
The witness testified that during the fall of 2011, Honig was giving her a ride to a friend’s house and she began talking to him about her then-boyfriend. She said she was worried her then-boyfriend was interested in another girl, who she said was prettier than her. At that time, she testified, Honig told her to “let me be the judge of that” and told her to pull her tank top straps down. Honig pulled off onto the side of the road and started touching her, the girl said. She said Honig told her she could not tell anyone because he would go to jail.
When Assistant State’s Attorney Kathryn Marsh asked the girl why she pulled her tank top down when Honig asked her to, the girl said she had never been in a situation like that before and did not know how to say no.
On another occasion in the fall of 2011, Honig had driven the girl to his mother’s house to pick up a credit card to go get food, the girl said, when he asked her to take her sweatshirt off and pull her tank top down. Honig asked her to perform a sexual act if he paid her, and she said no, the witness testified.
When Marsh again asked her why she did what Honig asked her to do, the girl said, “He’s a big guy. I didn’t want to make him angry.”
The girl also testified about an incident in St. Mary’s County and an incident that occurred in June 2012, for which Honig was not charged but was allowed as evidence in the trial.
She said at a home in St. Mary’s County, she was sitting on a bed with Honig when he asked her to sit in between his legs and unbutton her pants, and he then began touching her inappropriately. The girl then testified that in June 2012, Honig was giving her a driving lesson when he asked her to perform a sexual act if he purchased her learner’s permit for her.
Several weeks after the June 2012 incident, the girl testified, she told Douglas Lawrence about the incidents with Honig.
During the trial, Lawrence testified that the girl asked him not to tell anyone, but later told the girl’s mother after she overheard Lawrence and the girl talking about Honig. The mother testified that after she found out about what Honig allegedly had done, she took her daughter to the Maryland State Police Prince Frederick barrack July 10, 2012, and filed a police report.
Tfc. West, of the MSP Prince Frederick barrack, testified he took the initial report from the girl and her mother and then forwarded the information to Det. Jernigan of the Calvert Investigative Team. Once she was assigned to the case, Jernigan contacted the girl and interviewed her.
Jernigan testified she and Det. Sgt. Naughton with the sheriff’s office went to Honig’s mother’s house after interviewing the girl, but he was not there. Jernigan said Naughton called Honig’s cellphone and left a voicemail asking him to contact them, which he later did. Honig agreed to meet Jernigan and Naughton at the sheriff’s office for an interview, which was recorded.
An edited version of the recording of the interview was played during the trial for the jury to hear. Retired judge Warren Krug told the jury the interview was lengthy and had “extraneous” or “inadmissible” information, which is why the recording was edited.
In the beginning of the interview, which was recorded at 2 p.m. Aug. 1, 2012, Honig denied touching the girl inappropriately or asking the girl to perform a sexual act. Naughton, who conducted the interview, then told Honig the original complaint was made immediately after the incident happened and they had “discernible male DNA” from a DNA swab they took from the girl’s skin where she alleged he touched her.
Naughton asked how he would explain it if it was his DNA on the girl, and Honig said it may have been from when he was looking at a bug bite under her armpit she had showed him or from when they were wrestling. When Naughton asked whether he had asked the girl to perform a sexual act, Honig said he often jokes about things like that with the girl.
“You remember everything about everything, but you stop short about” touching the girl or asking her for sexual favors, Naughton said on the recorded interview to Honig. Naughton then asked whether “it was a lawful or unlawful groping,” to which Honig replied, “It was lawful.” Honig, during the recorded interview, told Naughton he was tickling the girl when she “moved my hands lower and lower” and Honig told her to stop.
At one point during the recorded interview, Honig told Naughton and Jernigan he had trouble understanding and comprehending things and had been in special education classes in school.
Jernigan testified there was not actual DNA in the case, but Honig was told there was to see if his story would change.
Defense attorney Robyn Riddle called Honig as a witness and asked if he ever touched the girl inappropriately in the fall of 2011, to which Honig responded, “I did not touch her at all.” When Riddle asked him if he had asked her to perform a sexual act while at his mother’s house in the fall of 2011, Honig said he did not.
Although Honig was not charged for the alleged incident in St. Mary’s County, Riddle asked him to explain what happened. Honig testified the girl was upset about something so they went into the bedroom to talk.
“I’m a giant kid,” Honig said, so he started tickling her to try to cheer her up. He said he did not tell her to unbutton her pants and did not touch her inappropriately.
Honig testified he took the girl out for a driving lesson in June 2012 and offered to purchase her learner’s permit for her, but did not ask her to perform a sexual act in return.
Riddle said that during the recorded interview, Naughton told Honig he could choose either lawful or unlawful groping to describe the events that took place with the girl and “you said, ‘I’ll take the lawful groping.’ Why?” Honig said he thought he had to choose between the two and thought “groping” meant “horseplay.” At the end of the interview, Honig testified, he “was scared” and felt like he needed to tell the police what they wanted to hear so he could leave.
Honig is scheduled Feb. 27 for another jury trial for similar allegations from another 16-year-old girl. In that case, Honig is charged with sexual abuse of a minor and fourth-degree sex offense.