SCRANTON — The defense took over Monday in the trial of the police chief accused of having sexual contact with a teenage girl.
The Old Forge police chief on trial for allegedly having sexual contact with a girl took the stand in his own defense and strongly denied the accusations against him.
For the first time since he was arrested in May of 2012, suspended Old Forge Police Chief Larry Semenza started telling his side of the story. He took the stand in his own trial on child sex abuse charges.
Chief Semenza said he had a friendly relationship with the girl when she was a teenager, but he denied any sexual contact with her and said her story must have been her own fantasy.
When his trial started last week, Semenza’s attorneys said it would be a case of “he said, she said,” Semenza’s story against the story of his now 24-year-old alleged victim.
The suspended Old Forge police chief spent almost three hours giving his recollection of 2004 and 2005 and the relationship he had with the girl when she was 15.
He admitted the two were close, testifying, “we started to develop a mentor-like relationship, like a Little League coach or something. I didn’t think anything of it until now.”
In May of 2012, Chief Semenza was arrested along with former Old Forge Police Captain Jamie Krenitsky and former Old Forge firefighter Walter Chiavacci when the alleged victim came forward saying she had sexual contact with all three men when she was 15.
Semenza was the only one to continuously deny the allegations. And that’s what he did on the stand. He denied sexual contact with the girl, denied watching her shower, and denied kissing her. Defense attorneys believe the girl’s allegations are a fantasy she created.
Defense attorneys also called character witnesses: Former Old Forge Mayor Anthony torquato who recommended Semenza be promoted to chief, current Mayor Michelle Avvisato, and Old Forge Fire Chief Mark Tagliaterra.
All of them testified they saw Semenza with the 15-year-old girl but didn’t think their relationship was inappropriate.
Chief Semenza is not done testifying. Prosecutors from the Lackawanna County district attorney’s office will have a chance to ask him questions in court Tuesday morning.
Then, the case will go to the jury and it will be up to them to decide whose story they believe.