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BLOOMINGTON — A Bloomington man was acquitted Tuesday of sexually assaulting a minor during the year he lived with her mother.

The verdict was returned after 2½ hours by the jury of four men and eight women.

In a videotaped interview police conducted with the child in April after she disclosed the alleged assault to her father, the child said Shields “tricked me” with an offer of candy to lure her from her bed. The girl, now a teenager, said he sexually assaulted her multiple times over several months in 2014.

The video depicted a tearful girl who was initially reluctant to talk to Bloomington Detective John Heinlen during the interview at the McLean County Children's Advocacy Center.

Few specific details of the incidents were described by the girl but she was clear that her mother's boyfriend at the time had sexually assaulted her. A few minutes into the 17-minute interview, the girl told the detective the assaults occurred "every night ’til we moved out" of the home the family rented in Bloomington.

In her closing arguments, defense lawyer Jennifer Patton pointed to what she considered inconsistencies between the child's interview and her testimony Monday in court.

The girl's recollection that the abuse occurred at night in the final months Shields and her mother were together conflicts with the mother's work schedule, which shows the woman worked the day shift, said Patton.

The fact that the girl disclosed the abuse allegations to her father during a heated argument between the two also raises questions about whether the child was attempting to deflect her father's scolding, said Patton.

Patton also asked the jury to consider testimony from the defendant's mother, Tammy Griffin, who said she was with her son most nights when he was babysitting the girl and her siblings.

Assistant State's Attorney Erika Reynolds reminded jurors in her closing remarks that the child was about 8 when the incidents allegedly took place and her disclosure came several years later.

"All we know from (her) is this happened every time he had access to her and no one was around," said Reynolds.

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Contact Edith Brady-Lunny at (309) 820-3276. Follow her on Twitter: @pg_blunny

McLean County Courts Reporter

McLean County courts reporter for The Pantagraph.