Tutor’s attorney: Victim ‘likes to be the big shot’

Abigail Simon in court on Nov. 18, 2014.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The attorney for former tutor Abigail Simon framed his case for the judge on Wednesday, saying text messages and other evidence show the underage student she had sex with was the aggressor and that the tutor was under “duress.”

“What motivation does he have to do this to her, besides love?” attorney Michael Manley told the judge while the jury was out of the courtroom. “I think we’ve got an obvious motive of why he would do this to her. He likes to impress his friends. He likes to be the big shot.”

It was another argument, without the jury present, about just how much the defense should be allowed to talk about the victim’s alleged past — at least the past he described in racy text messages.

In some texts to a friend, the victim allegedly talked about who would win the “race” to be first to have sex with another female, a high school student. He also talked about having sex with the girl and never talking to her again. The victim testified he didn’t have sex with the student and that he’d sent the texts to impress the friend.

It was about the same time he was starting his alleged relationship with his tutor in early 2013. He was 15 at the time. The Grand Rapids Catholic Central tutor was 33.

“Is he a sociopathic rapist or is he somebody trying to do things to impress his friends?” Manley argued before the judge.

Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Helen Brinkman has called the defense the “theater of the absurd.”

“How does this at all relate to a duress defense?” she asked the judge. “It more relates to the continued trashing of this kid’s character.”

The victim spent several hours on the stand — for a third day — defending himself against an attorney trying to paint him as an emotional, angry teen who punched walls, stalked the tutor and had a sexual history before she came along.

“Isn’t it true you had a very active sex life before you met Miss Simon?” Manley asked the alleged victim, now 17.

The questioning led to an immediate objection from the prosecutor, who argued that the rape shield law prevents the defense from bringing up a victim’s sexual history.

With the jury out of the courtroom, the defense attorney read from text messages between the student and others that he says shows the teen had a sexual history with females and males — allegations he later denied.

“He’s trying to trash the kid,” Brinkman argued. “We’ll have to have a hearing.”

Attorneys from both sides argued privately before the judge about whether the victim’s sexual history should be allowed. Judge Paul Sullivan allowed it, but only in a limited way — a win for the defense.

“You told us you were a virgin?” the attorney asked him. “Do you still want to stick to that answer?”

“Yes,” the teen answered.

“Is this thing with Miss Simon so you could be popular?” the attorney later asked him. “I’ve got the hot tutor? Is that what you did?”

“No,” the victim answered. “Not at all.”

The victim has testified he knew nothing about “rough sex” until he learned it from the tutor. However, on Tuesday, he testified he had learned a lot on pornographic sites.

Simon, now 35, is charged with first-degree sexual assault and accosting a minor for immoral purposes. The trial started last week and could continue through Friday.

Earlier, under questioning by the prosecutor, the teen said the relationship continued even after it was exposed in April 2013. He said they emailed each other and talked on the telephone. She said they also met twice after that, including once in Saugatuck, and had oral sex both times.

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