Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Teen Sexual Abuse Case Raises Questions about Intimidation Law Is Silent on Right of Accused to Confront Juvenile Witnesses

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Teen Sexual Abuse Case Raises Questions about Intimidation Law Is Silent on Right of Accused to Confront Juvenile Witnesses

Article excerpt

As they waited in the reception room of a lawyer's office in Clayton, the four teen-agers and their parents tried to make small talk. They even managed a few jokes.

Minutes later, their mood dramatically changed.

"The parents went ballistic," said Dan Diemer, an assistant prosecutor. "The boys became visibly nervous."

One of the teen-age witnesses had just come face to face with a man accused of sexual abuse - his former baseball coach, Karl Schwebe Jr. The four teen-agers were about to give sworn statements against Schwebe.

Now, in an unprecedented case, the Missouri Court of Appeals must decide:

Do Schwebe and similar defendants have the right to confront witnesses against them at pretrial proceedings?

Or is a defendant's mere presence when witnesses give sworn statements an attempt to intimidate them before the trial?

Schwebe, 28, of St. Ann, coached the boys' baseball team in south St. Louis County.

A grand jury in St. Louis County indicted him in November on charges that he committed three acts of sodomy with a 14-year-old boy between September 1991 and June 1992.

Schwebe has denied the allegations and is free on bond awaiting trial.

At the encounter April 13, two police officers and four teen-agers - one of them the alleged victim - showed up at the law offices of Michael M. Frank in Clayton to give depositions in Schwebe's case.

Besides the police officers and the boys, now 15 and 16, the parents also showed up at Frank's office. So did prosecutor Diemer and Schwebe's co-counsel, Dan Juengel.

And so did Schwebe who stands 6-feet-1 and weighs about 200 pounds. He was sitting in the law office when the first boy entered. The 15-year-old was upset, Diemer said.

"I could tell he was visibly nervous," Diemer said. "

The parents of the four boys were outraged because they had been barred from the office.

With Schwebe present, Diemer refused to allow Juengel to question the first witness. …

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