The case of a Delaware County chess teacher who’s accused of inappropriately touching students will go to the jury this morning after both the prosecution and defense give closing arguments.
The jury in the Delaware County Common Pleas Court trial of F. Leon Wilson, 62, of 2785 Castlewood Road, Columbus, will begin deliberating today after hearing closing arguments from Assistant Delaware County Prosecutors Mark Sleeper and Doug Dumolt as well as defense attorney Bradley Koffel.
The jury also got an abbreviated chess lesson when Wilson took the stand Thursday afternoon to defend himself.
Judge Everett Krueger told the jury Thursday that closing arguments will begin at 8:30 a.m. and the jury would likely be able to start deliberating at about 10:30 a.m. The jury will decide if Wilson is guilty of three counts of gross sexual imposition, which are third-degree felonies.
Evidence brought in by Koffel and co-defender Eric Willison on Thursday included a table and six chairs from Prep Academy in Polaris, where the first alleged crime occurred. During his testimony, Wilson showed the jury how he set up chess boards with students and walked them through a lesson on April 7, 2015, the day the alleged offense occurred.
That’s the day prosecutors allege that Wilson touched a 4-year-0ld student on the vagina and buttocks while she was rocking back and forth in her seat. An interview between a specialist and the alleged victim was shown Thursday morning and the girl said Wilson told her it would “make it feel good.”
Wilson told the jury Thursday that the student was rocking back and forth in her seat but insisted he only walked nearby her and asked her, “Does rocking make you feel better?”
Wilson also testified about his April 23, 2015, arrest at Port Columbus International Airport.
“I thought it was mistaken identity,” Wilson told the jury. Wilson said he was approached by airport police who placed him under arrest and took him to an interview room, where they allowed him to make a phone call.
Wilson testified that after he read the warrant, which charged him with rape and gross sexual imposition in Delaware Municipal Court, he was relieved.
“I was a little bit relieved because I knew it wasn’t possible,” Wilson said.
Koffel played a recording of Wilson in the interview room when he made his phone call. Wilson testified that he did not know he was being filmed.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” Wilson tells the person on the phone. “There’s no way.”
Wilson maintained his innocence during prosecutor Sleeper’s cross examination and said that Sleeper was taking things he said out of context.
Sleeper pointed out inconsistencies with Wilson’s testimony and the testimony of other witnesses and asked Wilson if he thought the other witnesses were lying.
“I would use the word ‘inaccurate,’” Wilson said, arguing that a lie is intended to do harm but the other witnesses just might have gotten their facts wrong.
Dr. Laura Brodie, an expert in child psychology from California, also testified for the defense after the interview footage of the victim was shown in court.
Brodie testified broadly about interviews done with children in sexual abuse cases like this one and told Koffel that children like the 4-year-old in this case do not have fully developed memory functions and can be led to answers if they think the interviewer wants them to answer in a different way.
However, during cross examination, Brodie testified about how no interview is perfect and must be done on a case-by-case basis depending on the child.
Brodie told Dumolt that “just because they are a child doesn’t make them inherently unreliable” and said that every child is different and some may develop memory recall quicker than others.
The jury is comprised of six men and six women.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.