CLEARFIELD – Jurors will begin deliberations in a Clearfield man’s sexual assault case Friday following two days of testimony in Clearfield County Court.
Justin J. Centra, 41, was charged by Lawrence Township police with aggravated indecent assault of child, criminal attempt-aggravated indecent assault of child and three counts of corruption of minors.
He was also charged with indecent assault-less than 13 years (two counts), indecent assault without consent of other, indecent exposure and terroristic threats.
Centra was later charged with 20 counts each of intimidating a witness/victim, intimidates person from providing or withholding information and obstruction in child abuse cases.
The first victim was at Centra’s residence and awoke around 3 a.m. Aug. 24, 2020 because she felt someone rubbing her leg. She saw Centra kneeling next to the bed and said he tried to touch her inappropriately.
She said she rolled over onto her side to stop him, and tried to make him think that she was asleep. After he left the room, she picked up her phone and messaged a friend.
The victim told her friend she couldn’t sleep and was scared to. Then, she said Centra came back in, asking if she wanted to see his private area and if she would show him hers.
She shook her head “no” both times, she testified Wednesday, and then Centra told her not to tell anyone. She immediately told her friend what happened and she arranged for her mother to pick up the victim.
The victim said as she ran outside, Centra stood at the door asking her not to go. She said she was taken home where she eventually told her parents what happened and police were contacted.
Victim 2 took the stand late Wednesday afternoon and said when she learned what happened to victim 1, she began sobbing but managed to tell a relative Centra had assaulted her six years earlier.
Police were contacted and a forensic interview was conducted at the Child Advocacy Center of Clearfield County. Victim 2 resumed her testimony Thursday morning.
She said the first time Centra assaulted her was in December when she was 10 years old. She said she woke up to find him “thrusting” his hips on top of her.
Other times she said he touched her inappropriately, as well as tried to get her to touch his private area and put his hand down her pants.
While he was incarcerated in the county jail, Victim 2 said she received 22 hand-written letters from Centra between August and December of 2020. She kept 16 and later gave them to Children & Youth Services.
In the letters, he asked her to go to the district attorney’s office and recant her story and to throw victim 1 under the bus to help him get out.
He also said they had to go over their stories and make sure they were on the “same page.” In one letter, she was instructed: “don’t keep it; don’t show anyone.”
In addition, the prosecution played a call from Centra to a relative Dec. 7, 2020, the day before victim 2 had an appointment with the prosecutor. He wanted them to take victim 2 to the DA’s office to admit she’d lied and to say victim 1 had lied.
Centra took the witness stand in his own defense Thursday afternoon because he said it was the first time that he’s had the chance to tell his story.
He denied having ever inappropriately touched the victims, and that he didn’t mean for his letters and calls to come across as intimidating to those involved in the case.
He claimed that at the time of his arrest Aug. 25, 2020, he knew very little about the allegations against him and that the arresting officer only asked him a few questions once they got to the jail.
Centra said that he got the impression victim 1 was believed to be lying and that victim 2 wasn’t 100 percent sure anything had happened to her.
“All I wanted was for them to tell the truth”, he testified. But under cross-examination, he was pressed about an emotional phone exchange with a relative Aug. 28, 2020, just days after his arrest.
In the recording, the relative said: “For you to even ask us to say those girls lied. They didn’t lie, Justin! They had to go give statements before police and the district attorney.”
Centra claimed he had no idea why that comment was made because he didn’t discuss the allegations with or ask them to do anything prior to the call.
Deputy District Attorney Trudy Lumadue is prosecuting the case for the commonwealth. Centra is being represented by defense attorney Patrick Lavelle.
Closing arguments will begin at 9 a.m. Friday in Courtroom No. 2 after which the jury will be instructed on the law and sent into their deliberations.