September 2, 2014

Elyria
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Not all charges against stepdad dropped


Prosecutors say girl didn’t fully recant

ELYRIA — Prosecutors on Wednesday decided not to force a man who was convicted of molesting his stepchildren to go through another trial based on the accusations of one of the children.

But they refused to drop the charges based on the second child’s allegations — even though the alleged victims, both of whom now are adults — have said Joel Covender never molested them.

Covender’s attorney, W. Scott Ramsey, said he and his client are disappointed county Prosecutor Dennis Will didn’t drop all the charges.

“Why do we have to keep arguing for this man who served 11 years in prison for something he didn’t do?” Ramsey asked. “Joel’s innocent. He’s always been innocent.”

Covender, 39, was freed from prison in February after the two victims asked the state Parole Board to set him free. Last month, county Common Pleas Judge James Miraldi ordered a new trial, saying the decision of the two victims to recant could lead to Covender being cleared.

Prosecutors have filed an appeal of Miraldi’s order for a new trial in regard to the girl’s allegations.

Covender said Wednesday he’s not sure why prosecutors believed one of his former stepchildren and not the other. The Midview graduate, who now lives in Wayne County, said he just wants to clear his name.

“I mean, it’s just crazy. They dismissed one and not the other; they believed one and not the other,” Covender said.

The children, a boy, now 18, and a girl, now 20, leveled the accusations against him in 1994. Covender was convicted in 1996 of molesting the children.

Will said Wednesday the standards of whether to pursue the case were different because the two said different things when they filed affidavits earlier this year recanting their stories.

“The testimony of the male was clearly that he had testified untruthfully, that it never happened,” Will said. “He clearly recanted.”

The girl, on the other hand, Will said, simply said she didn’t recall ever being molested by Covender. That doesn’t meet the state’s standard to throw out a conviction because it’s not a full recanting of her previous story, he said.

According to her affidavit recanting her story, the girl said she had no memory of Covender molesting her, but “I would remember if something like that had occurred.”

Both of the victims said they felt pressure from grown-ups involved in the case, including their grandparents on their biological father’s side, to say Convender molested them.

Covender denied ever touching the children, and he refused sexual offender treatment while in prison, saying he would never admit to something he didn’t do — even if it meant a longer prison stay.

At least one person believed Covender, his now ex-wife and the mother of the children, April Goode, who said she never pushed her children to recant. It was something they decided to do on their own, she said last month.

Contact Brad Dicken at 653-6258 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.