Friday marked day one of the trial for a 44-year-old Gwinn man facing eight counts of criminal sexual conduct.
William Meni was in court on Friday morning, facing eight charges for allegedly sexually assaulting three victims under the age of 13, according to officials.
According to police, one victim's incident occurred in 2012, another victim during 2007-2008, and a third victim, 1995-1996. If convicted of one first degree count, he could face 25 years to life in prison.
Prosecuting Attorney Matt Wiese began the trial telling the 13-person jury that the case is about three young girls.
"What proofs are going to show you is that the latest victim was five years old," stated Wiese to the jury.
He continued explaining the second victim was seven years old when the alleged sexual assault occurred.
"Finally the third victim, who's now married and expecting a second child, is going to tell you in 1995, she was six turning seven," Wiese added. "If you could, picture three little girls, ages five through eight, because that's what the evidence is all about. She'll tell you she saw her daughter on the bottom bunk with her underwear off and his head between her legs." Wiese told the jury in his opening statements about a victim's mother, who allegedly walked in on Meni with her five-year-old daughter in 2012.
In regards to the second victim, which occurred in 2007-2008, Wiese explained Meni allegedly had oral sex with her, made comments about her breasts getting larger, exposed himself and engaged in vaginal penetration two times.
He ended his statement with events involving the third victim. Wiese said the defendant sexually penetrated the five-year-old victim in 1995-1996 after allowing her to watch a pornographic film with him. Wiese said that the victim recalls having sexual intercourse at least 10 or more times and one incident of oral sex.
"I will submit all three victims were sexually penetrated. These aren't stories, these are incidents," Wiese declared.
Wiese also mentioned police found Dora the Explorer pornographic cartoons in the defendant's phone.
"Carefully listen to all the evidence," Wiese asked of the jury. "It's your case. Look at all the evidence."
Defense attorney Derek Swajanen began his opening statement saying there is an absolute "presumption of innocence."
"The prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Don't rush to make a verdict," stated Swajanen.
The defense explained although there are three victims and multiple allegations, it does not mean prosecution can prove his client guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Scrutinize why is it coming to light now," Swajanen said.
The defense attorney said allegations in 1995-1996 weren't revealed until 2001 to family members of the victim, but said those family members didn't come forward until a year later.
"If there was physical rape of a six or seven year old, there would be something," Swajanen stated. "For over a year, the mom knew about it, but nothing was reported until 2002."
The defense attorney continued that the second alleged incidents also weren't "brought to light."
"You think someone would bring these sexual allegations to light? No, even though the mother of the alleged victim knew about the incidents," Swajanen added.
He continued telling the jury the latest victim's parents also delayed calling the police.
"Why don't you bring your child in for a rape test kit that night?" Swajanen asked the jury. "Why wouldn't people come forward with this right away?"
The defense attorney ended asking the jury to scrutinize these 18-year-old allegations that are just coming to light. He also noted that after the 2007 incidents were disclosed in 2010, the victim said there was no penetration. Swajanen then pointed out that when questioned again for this case, that victim then changed the statement saying penetration was involved.
TV6's Beth Cefalu is in court following the trial and will be posting updates on Twitter throughout the day, and tune in at 6 and 7 p.m. on the TV6 Early News and News Tonight as Beth goes live from the courthouse.