Harold Worley Jr. takes witness stand in sex abuse case
Harold Worley Jr. is accused of sexually abusing a child, but his lawyer says the charge should never have been filed.
“We categorically deny he did that,” Morgan L. Martin said of the crime. “He did not do that.”
Tuesday marked the start of the Worley Jr. trial on charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and unlawful conduct toward a child. Criminal sexual conduct toward a minor is punishable by 25 years to life in prison. On Monday, Worley Jr. rejected a plea offer that would have carried little to no jail time.
Police reports state that a woman said she witnessed Worley Jr. involved in incidents with children, and that an unnamed victim claimed to have been sexually abused by him.
Worley Jr. is the son of Horry County Councilman Harold Worley and a former North Myrtle Beach official.
Martin said Worley was playing a game with a child and the charges stem from a messy divorce.
“It was out of that divorce these criminal charges arose,” Martin said in his opening statement.
Martin took exception to the nature of the criminal sexual conduct charge as it requires sexual assault in the crime. He said there is no evidence to support an assault and the law was designed to punish pedophiles, Martin said.
“It’s a horrible crime, it carries horrible consequences,” Martin said.
He added the punishment for criminal sexual conduct with a minor is nearly identical to that of murder. In decades of practicing law, Martin said, he has never been more concerned for a client because of the consequence if the jury finds Worley Jr. guilty.
Both sides gave their opening statements to the jury on Tuesday. The state also called several witnesses and finished presenting its case in one day.
Meredith Bauer, Worley Jr.’s ex-wife, testified about the alleged abuse she witnessed and said she was shocked by it because she loved Worley Jr. and couldn’t imagine him hurting kids.
“He said, ‘nobody is going to believe you Meri.’ He kept saying ‘nobody is going to believe you,’” Bauer recalled Worley Jr. telling her after she saw the alleged abuse.
After the incident, Bauer said Worley Jr. acted as if nothing happened.
Prosecutors also played an audio conversation between Worley Jr and Bauer. In the recording, Bauer questions Worley Jr. about the abuse and he said he was depressed. As Bauer asks about the incident, Worley Jr. sounds like he is slightly chuckling and Bauer questions why he is laughing.
During cross-examination, Bauer admitted to making the recording around the same time she spoke to a divorce lawyer.