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Huckaby alleges officer was lying
Defendant testifies in refuge sex case

By Eric Fleischauer
eric@decaturdaily.com 340-2435

Refuge Officer Greg Blanks is lying and state Conservation Officer Jerome Lowery III is mistaken, testified a defendant charged with inappropriate sexual conduct at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge.

In the third day of his trial, Gary C. Huckaby, 68, took the stand to describe his contact with Blanks, a Georgia-based U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer who participated in a four-day operation aimed at curbing illicit sexual activity at the refuge.

Huckaby was cited July 20, the first day of the operation, at Beaverdam Boardwalk Trail in eastern Limestone County.

A prominent Huntsville lawyer, he is a former president of the Alabama Bar Association. He could lose his license and be forced to register as a sex offender if found guilty of abusive sexual contact, a felony. He is also charged with indecent exposure, a misdemeanor.

Knew area's background

Huckaby said he knew of Beaverdam Boardwalk's reputation for illicit sexual activity because of a 1999 case he handled for a client, WHNT-TV. He said a man accused of masturbating on the trail had denied it and sued the TV station over the allegation.

He returned to Beaverdam Boardwalk on Thursday, July 20, he said, to see whether the area was safe enough that he could take his young granddaughters there the following Saturday.

He said he saw Blanks, who was out of uniform, sit down on a bench. Blanks initiated a conversation as he tried to pass, and Huckaby responded. Huckaby was suspicious Blanks was trying to initiate sexual activity, he said, but "I've been brought up you don't snub somebody when they talk to you."

Huckaby said Blanks then began rubbing his own crotch and said to Huckaby, "Let's get on with it; I've got to get back to Savannah." Then the officer said, "What are you looking for, (oral sex)?"

Huckaby said he responded to the overture by saying, "You're disgusting and you damn well should be ashamed."

Huckaby then turned to the jury and apologized for using the word "damn."

Then Blanks lunged at him, Huckaby testified, and prevented him from leaving.

"He had every appearance of being very angry at me," Huckaby said. "I was scared to death. I thought I was going to be robbed or worse."

Huckaby denied touching Blanks' groin or exposing his own genitals.

Wednesday began with the playing of a videotape secretly recorded by Lowery during a December meeting with lawyers for Huckaby and the government at Beaverdam Boardwalk.

Defense counsel Mark White has argued that Lowery has been inconsistent in his testimony as to where he was when he allegedly witnessed, through binoculars and from about 40 yards away, Huckaby grab Blanks' crotch. White attempted to use the audio portion of the recording to support the theory that Lowery had represented to the lawyers precisely where he stood when watching the incident.

The few words by Lowery that were audible seemed to indicate that, consistent with his testimony Tuesday, he told the lawyers he was moving back and forth to keep a good view through the foliage of Blanks and Huckaby.

Lowery testified that, because Huckaby's back was to him, he could not see Huckaby expose his genitals. Lowery's claim that he witnessed Huckaby grabbing Blanks' crotch, however, is critical because that is the foundation of the felony charge.

The defense portion of the case got off to a rough start when U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler prevented its first witness, an engineering professor the defense has been paying $325 per hour, from testifying as an expert. He also excluded elaborate diagrams she prepared that included a survey of every tree in the area of the incident.

The court did permit her to display pictures she had taken from about the place where Lowery said he was standing. The photos, taken at about the same magnification as Lowery's binoculars, indicated that the view of the bench — especially at the level where Blanks' crotch would have been — was partially obscured by branches and by a fence rail.

During Huckaby's testimony, the defense projected a photograph he had taken of his granddaughters playing in a creek the week before his arrest. Huckaby appeared emotional and took a long time before he identified the photo. Huckaby's daughter-in-law, in the audience, began sobbing. Coogler finally asked her to leave the courtroom.

The defense also called Huckaby's family doctor, Steven Herrington, who testified that blood work he ordered six months after the incident showed that Huckaby had a low testosterone level. That fact, combined with his age, led Herrington to the conclusion that his patient probably could not have obtained a quick erection without physical stimulation.

Blanks testified that when Huckaby exposed himself, Huckaby had an erection.

Herrington also testified Huckaby is uncircumcised. In response to questions from White, Blanks said Tuesday he saw nothing unusual when Huckaby allegedly exposed himself.

White did not ask specifically whether Blanks saw that Huckaby was uncircumcised.

Coogler said he expected the case to go to the jury Thursday afternoon.

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