The jury of four women and two men deliberated for 33 minutes before coming to a verdict.
A Flagler County jury of four women and two men on Jan. 24 found Thomas Binkley, 62, guilty of sexually molesting two young girls.
The trial began with jury selection on Jan. 22. Binkley was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation, and was found guilty on both counts.
The girls, now 8 and 10, said on the witness stand in response to Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark’s questioning Jan. 23 that Binkley had touched their genitals over their clothing when he lived with their family in Palm Coast.
The defense also played Binkley's confession to the jury.
"I just touched her, put my hand there," he told a Flagler County Sheriff's Office detective. The detective asked him if it was a touch or a rub. "It was a rub but very slight," Binkley replied. "And I’m looking at myself going, 'You can’t be doing this.'"
“Why I did what I did, I don’t know why," Binkley added.
Binkley's expression of guilt showed that he was aware that what he was doing was wrong, Clark said.
"It was sexual, and he knew that, and he knew that it wasn’t OK," Clark said.
The defense had alleged that any touching was accidental — as Binkley had stated in the beginning of his interview with detectives before he admitted to touching both girls two times.
But Clark told the jury that made no sense.
"An accident happens to one chid one time, not to multiple children multiple times," she said. "We know this was purposeful. He made sure the girls were alone. He made sure those girls trusted him. ... They loved him; they trusted him."
She noted that Binkley had repeatedly had the children alone in his room with the door closed.
Initially, that had not been the case: He'd kept the door open.
"Over time, gradually, that door becomes shut, and [the girls' mother] naively trusted him," Clark said. "But remember, this is a person ... that she’d known for years."
Binkley had been a longtime friend of the family. He'd done concrete work, then was a maintenance worker at a trailer park near Bings Landing. But he began having health problems that affected his mobility, and could no longer work. The family invited him in.
At first, he lived in a trailer in the family’s yard. But it didn’t have water or electricity, and with winter approaching, the family invited him to move into a bedroom.
When he moved in, he did chores. He kept doughnuts and Tic Tacs in his room, and gave them to the kids. He also had a TV in his room, with a streaming device, and the kids would come in to watch.
"He took advantage of this family. ... He gets into he house, he starts inserting himself into he family," Clark said. "This was him getting these kids to a place where they would trust him."
On multiple occasions, the girls said, Binkley had touched them while they were lying on his bed watching TV.
Binkley first came to the FCSO’s attention on July 8, 2016, when the agency received a report that the girls had been sexually molested by him three days before.
The victims’ great grandmother was the first one to realize something was wrong: She saw the younger girl behave in a sexual manner, and when the great grandmother asked the girl where she’d learned that, the girl said from Binkley.
An FCSO detective got more information from the children’s mother, and, on July 21, the First Coast Child Protection Team interviewed the two girls.
Both said that Binkley had rubbed their genitals with his hands over their clothing when they were lying in front of him while watching television. Both said he’d done so on multiple occasions.
On Jan. 16, 2017, two detectives interviewed Binkley at his home on Forest Park Street in Bunnell.
Attorney William Bookhammer, the public defender representing Binley, told the jury that Binkley had told detectives that any touch was not sexual.
"Listen to this interview very closely, not just the statement, but his demeanor … He’s breaking down, he’s crying, talking about how much he loved these children. ... He said maybe this was two times with each girl, and he said it was accidental.”
Bookhammer said that if Binkley's acts had been sexual, there would have been a progression of sexual acts.
"If there was a sexual purpose … we would be having acts that are much more invasive and much more overt," Bookhammer said. If the children had been being groomed, Bookhammer said, "One would assume that those acts would progress … because the goal was for sexual gratification. There’s no evidence of that."
Clark said the acts had been invasive. "That is not a slight touch and stop, touch and stop," Clark said to there jury. "Your common sense tells you you’ve got a 60-year-old man rubbing the vagina of two little girls. Two little girls. What other motivation would he have other than sexual?"