Ex-prison guard cleared of felony assault charge
A Westmoreland County jury deliberated just 40 minutes, including the time it took it to eat lunch, to acquit a former state prison guard of felony sexual assault against a teenager he met through a social networking site.
The jury of eight men and four women convicted Brian Dulkis, 32, of Arona, of one misdemeanor count of corruption of a minor.
Jurors found Dulkis not guilty of more serious charges of statutory sexual assault, aggravated indecent assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent assault.
During the three-day trial, prosecutors contended that Dulkis had sexual relations with a 14-year-old at Bridgeport Dam Park in Mt. Pleasant Township on Feb. 18, 2011.
A Westmoreland County park policeman found Dulkis with his pants around his ankles, engaged in sexual activity with the girl in the front seat of his pickup truck at a secluded section of the park.
Although the teen admitted she lied about her age and told Dulkis she was 19, prosecutors argued the defendant should have known she was much younger.
The defense contended that Dulkis was reasonable to mistake her age based on her demeanor in text-message conversations and because they initially connected through an Internet site geared toward adults.
“We're pleased with the verdict,” said defense attorney Tim Andrews.
The three-day trial ended with Dulkis walking out of the courtroom facing up to five years in prison for the one conviction, according to Assistant District Attorney Jackie Knupp.
Judge Rita Hathaway allowed Dulkis to remain free on $100,000 bail, under house arrest, while he awaits sentencing in about three months.
Knupp said the verdict indicated that jurors “believed it was reasonable for him to believe she was not underaged.”
Dulkis did not testify during the trial. His defense consisted entirely of character witnesses, including Arona Mayor Jackie Bevan, who testified he had a reputation for being a law-abiding citizen.
During his closing argument, defense attorney Ken Burkley told jurors that Dulkis thought he had contacted an adult through the Internet and, based on the sexual content of two days of text messages, believed his partner was of age.
Under the law, Burkley said, jurors just had to find that Dulkis reasonably believed the teen was at least 16 years old to find him not guilty of the charges.
“His mistake was reasonable,” Burkley said.
Knupp argued that there were enough clues in the text-message conversations that Dulkis should have concluded the girl was much younger than she pretended to be.
Those messages included references to the girl's mother and permission that she needed to go out. Dulkis even questioned the girl's age in one text message, Knupp said.
“He went through with this; he's the adult,” Knupp said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police: Charges unwarranted for Yough shop class project
- Mental health facility won’t take Franklin Regional stabbing suspect as patient
- Fundraising under way for Indiana County newborn struck by stray bullet
- Police: Jeannette woman tried to steal family’s safe
- Attorney seeks dismissal of charge in Salem wreck that killed mother, unborn child
- Somerset County man arrested after loaded gun found at Baltimore airport
- Greensburg artist follows unusual path to creative career
- Thousands attend Mt. Pleasant Glass and Ethnic Festival
- No relief in sight for Westmoreland transit passengers
- 3 confirmed cases of MRSA in Ligonier school district
- Hribal will be transferred to Allegheny County psychiatric facility