WOODBINE, Ga. - A Camden County jury on Thursday acquitted a Kingsland karate school instructor on two child molestation charges, but deadlocked on three others.
Thomas Ary, 59, whose trial began Tuesday in Camden County Superior Court, was charged with three counts of molestation against a 9-year-old karate student and two counts of child molestation against a close female relative under the age of 12.
After deliberating into the evening, the jury announced it found Ary not guilty of fondling the young relative but had reached an impasse on the other three counts. Judge Roger Lane declared a mistrial on those charges.
According to the Brunswick News, defense lawyer Andrew Lee told the jury during closing argument that Ary had contact with thousands of children during his 37 years as a karate instructor and never had a complaint until the allegations by these two children.
One of the children, who is 10 years old, testified she was fondled by Ary three times at Pak's Karate, where Ary was an instructor, but Lee said there are no witnesses and questioned her credibility.
"Her story's constantly changing," the News quoted him as saying. "There's obviously something going on there."
Lee said there was "no way" Ary could have fondled the girl when there were 30 other children and adults nearby in the classroom.
The second alleged victim, a close relative of Ary, claimed he groped her on two different occasions while they slept in the same bed.
Lee said Ary was sleeping at the time his client allegedly groped her and was "shocked" when he was accused of the crime.
The newspaper reported that Lee said Ary was having marriage problems that may have led to the accusation and asked the jury to return not guilty verdicts on all five counts.
In her closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Katie Gropper of the Brunswick Judicial Circuit told jurors the prosecution's case was strong enough for a conviction on all charges, according to the News.
She said one witness, another instructor at Pak's, testified it was possible for Ary to have been alone with a child as long as five minutes while children were coming and going from the classroom.
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