POSTED: 03:32 p.m. HST, Aug 21, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 04:01 a.m. HST, Aug 22, 2014
PHILADELPHIA >> A young woman charged with abducting a 5-year-old Philadelphia girl from school and raping her had frequently viewed Japanese anime depicting sexual torture, prosecutors disclosed Thursday.
The evidence was revealed as the trial was delayed until next week.
Prosecutors asked to introduce the video evidence involving sexual humiliation and bondage to persuade jurors that 21-year-old defendant Christina Regusters could have been the lone attacker. The girl suffered devastating injuries that required surgery.
"(This) is so far out of the realm of what an average juror would be used to," Assistant District Attorney Erin O'Brien argued. "The only way to establish motive and intent is to introduce this evidence."
However, Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart found the cartoon nature of the material too far removed from the crime, and ruled it inadmissible. He also said the material is not illegal in Pennsylvania.
"I think we're stretching it to say ... as horrid and as vulgar as these images may be, that they can then be used as proof that she sexually abused a complaining witness," Minehart said.
He agreed to revisit the decision, though, if the defense implies that Regusters could not be sexually interested in girls or that other people must be involved.
Prosecutors will be allowed to present accusations that the former day care worker had molested a young female relative, and Minehart also allowed in computer searches about Muslim clothing and the destruction of DNA.
Police believe Regusters donned Muslim garb to pose as the child's mother and remove her from her kindergarten at Bryant Elementary School in west Philadelphia in January 2013, telling a substitute teacher she was taking her out for breakfast.
The crime stunned some parents in the city, given that the girl was abducted from her classroom and the only person charged was a woman.
The girl was blindfolded for much of her 18-hour ordeal, but later helped lead police to Regusters by describing details including a talking bird she heard in the house where she was held. She was found shivering under playground equipment, partially clothed, early the next morning.
"I've been stolen," she said to the man who found her.
Regusters had searched for the graphic anime just six hours before the 8:50 a.m. school abduction, O'Brien said. She had also searched for her criminal record and that of her father, she said, as Regusters fidgeted with a paper clip at the defense table. The details of those possible criminal records weren't revealed.
The trial, scheduled to start Thursday, was delayed until Monday to empanel more jurors and give defense lawyer W. Fred Harrison Jr. time to explore the new evidence. He had previously hoped to show at trial that other people were involved.
"The sexual events that take place in these animated pictures, that's not what happened in this case," Harrison argued Thursday.
The victim, now 7, is expected to testify next week. Prosecutors had originally planned to have her give videotaped testimony, but withdrew the motion Thursday, saying the jury needs to weigh her credibility.
Her family has a civil suit pending against the city.