BLOOMINGTON — A girl's reluctance to tell authorities about sex she may have had with a man later accused of a brutal murder may be heard by a jury at his trial on child pornography and rape charges involving her, a judge ruled Monday.

After his arrest, Brestan was questioned about photos found on his cellphone that allegedly depict a minor girl. In June he was charged with felony child pornography.

In August prosecutors added aggravated criminal sexual assault charges accusing him of raping the girl, whom he met at a support group attended by her father and Brestan at a local church.

Brestan's defense attorney Stephanie Wong asked Judge Robert Freitag to keep the girl from talking about Brestan's murder case when she testifies at his trial on the sex charges. 

Keeping word of the murder case from jurors may be difficult, said Assistant State's Attorney Jacob Harlow, if the girl is asked certain questions by Wong.

"That door could be blown wide open" during cross-examination of the girl, said Harlow, if the girl is asked to explain the delay in her disclosure of the allegations.

During a May 31 interview at the Children's Advocacy Center in Bloomington the girl declined to tell authorities about the sexual activity she allegedly had with Brestan when she visited his home. The girl wanted to protect Brestan, said the prosecutor.

The reason for the girl's hesitancy was "entirely, 100 percent because of the defendant's current murder charges and her not wanting him to be in more trouble than he's already in," said Harlow.

After mental health treatment and counseling, the girl was interviewed at the Children's Advocacy Center in Rockford where she disclosed the allegations.

Wong's suggestion that the minor not refer specifically to murder charges during her testimony was akin to playing with words, said the judge. The fact that the girl initially wanted to protect Brestan from the serious consequences of child sex offenses may come up during questioning.

"You run that risk on cross-examination," Freitag told the defense lawyer.

Age allegation 

Wong also told Freitag on Monday that Brestan needs access to records in police reports containing allegations the alleged victim has made against two other adult men. Wong also is seeking the girl's mental health records, including those with details of stays at a psychiatric unit.

According to Wong, the girl represented herself as being a college student when she was with Brestan at different times between March and May.

Normal attorney Jessica Woods, Harlow and Assistant State's Attorney Samantha Walley all objected to the defense request for the police reports, saying such disclosure violates the protection of minors under the state's juvenile justice and victim's rights laws.

The police reports are relevant, said Wong, because "she's made the misrepresentation to so many people" about her age.

Freitag ruled that the defense must first file notice with the alleged victim and her mental health treatment providers that the records are being sought by Brestan. The girl also must be told about the effort to access police reports, said the judge.

The judge also ruled that general statements the girl made during her May 31 interview about Brestan's alleged drug use are not admissible during a trial.

Brestan is due back in court Oct. 20 for a status hearing.   

Follow Edith Brady-Lunny on Twitter: @pg_blunny

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Reporter

Reporter for The Pantagraph.