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Del. pediatrician guilty in girl's waterboarding

| Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 7:51 p.m.

GEORGETOWN, Del. — A jury convicted a pediatrician on Thursday of waterboarding his companion's daughter by holding the child's head under a faucet.

The jury deliberated for about six hours before returning its verdict against Melvin Morse, 60.

Morse was charged with three felonies — two for alleged waterboarding and one for alleged suffocation by hand. He was convicted of one felony — waterboarding in the bathtub — and five misdemeanors. Jurors reduced the second waterboarding charge to a misdemeanor and acquitted Morse of the suffocation charge.

Morse did not show any immediate reaction after the verdict. He was ordered to surrender his passport, but he will remain out on bail until his sentencing hearing, set for April 11.

Morse awaits a maximum of 10 years in prison, but a lesser sentence is likely. Under state sentencing guidelines, each misdemeanor carries a maximum of ayear in prison, and often probation, and a felony charge typically carries 15 months.

Prosecutor Melanie Withers said she was “very gratified” by the verdict and that she was on her way to speak with the victim. Morse referred questions to his lead defense attorney, Joseph Hurley, who said he planned to appeal.

Hurley criticized a decision by the judge to allow jurors to see video interviews that the victim and her sister gave to authorities in August 2012. He said the unsworn statements improperly prejudiced the jury.

During the trial, defense attorneys argued that “waterboarding” was a term jokingly used to describe hair washing that the girl did not like.

Morse was charged with endangerment and assault when the girl ran away in July 2012 and told authorities of waterboarding and other abuse.

Morse, whose medical license was suspended after his arrest, has written several books and articles on paranormal science and near-death experiences involving children. He has appeared on shows such as “Larry King Live” and the “The Oprah Winfrey Show” to discuss his research, which has been featured on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” and in an article in “Rolling Stone” magazine. Morse denied police claims that he may have been experimenting on the girl.

The girl's mother, Pauline Morse, 41, pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor endangerment charges and testified against Melvin Morse.

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