LIVE BLOG: Accuser testifies against former band director

Prosecutor Steve Maresca gives his opening statement during day two of the trial for Robert Hamberg at the Collier County Courthouse in Naples. Hamberg, the former band director at Gulf Coast High School, is charged with eight felony counts of lewd or lascivious battery of a minor. If convicted of any of the eight counts, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Lexey Swall/Staff

Photo by LEXEY SWALL // Buy this photo

Prosecutor Steve Maresca gives his opening statement during day two of the trial for Robert Hamberg at the Collier County Courthouse in Naples. Hamberg, the former band director at Gulf Coast High School, is charged with eight felony counts of lewd or lascivious battery of a minor. If convicted of any of the eight counts, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Lexey Swall/Staff

Posted at 3:48 p.m.

The state is calling is other witnesses in the case.

First was Tina Streeter, a forensic interviewer at the Child Advocacy Center. Prosecutor Steve Maresca asks if it's unusual for abuse or battery victims to withhold some information in their initial interviews with adults.

"It's very unusual for a child to tell me everything," Streeter said. "Disclosure is a long process."

The state called FGCU music professor Michael Baron, who instructed the accuser in lessons at a discount rate at the request of Hamberg.

Hamberg paid for the lesson with a check written by his wife, Diane Hamberg, Baron testified.

Gulf Coast High student Ian McDaniel, 17, testified he sometimes saw the accuser leave the band room with Hamberg during class. He said the female student once showed McDaniel an email on her cell phone, which she said was sent by the band director.

Chad Furman, a Gulf Coast High English teacher, testified that in February and March, the accuser frequently asked to leave class early to practice music. Furman said that because the teenager had good grades and turned her work in early, she was allowed to do so.

Furman said that he later prohibited the early release, feeling the accuser was asking for it too frequently.

Gulf Coast High School principal David John Stump is now testifying.

Posted at 2:35 p.m.

Berry continued to attack details in the accuser's testimony before finishing his cross and giving way to Marzano for redirect.

Berry wondered why the girl refused to admit to the relationship when first approached by her parents, principal and guidance counselor in May. During a 45-minute meeting, she told adults that rumors of her relationship with Hamberg were untrue.

Only during an interview with a counselor at the Child Advocacy Center did the accuser admit to the sexual encounters at school. But she denied any encounters outside of school.

"So you lied to her?" Berry asked.

"Yes," she responded.

On redirect, Marzano returns to the anniversary of the kiss.

"Why do you remember that date, Jan. 28? Why is that so important?" Marzano asked.

"Because we used it as an anniversary type of date," the accuser responded.

The teenager stepped down from the stand at 2:30, after two and a half hours of testimony.

Posted at 1:58 p.m.

After a break for lunch, court resumes with cross examination of the accuser by Hamberg attorney Jerry Berry.

Berry begins with the teen's life at home. Her parents are divorced, she said, and she lives with her father, his girlfriend and her the girlfriend's children.

The relationship between her father and his girlfriend is volatile, and her mother was having problems with her boyfriend, she acknowledged.

Berry presses the accuser on exact dates of the sexual encounters. He notes that the accuser remembers the day of her first kiss with Hamberg--Jan. 28--but not the dates of their oral sex and other encounters.

"(Those dates) I didn't care about or write down or anything," she said.

Posted at 1:19 p.m.

A former student at Gulf Coast High School told jurors in the trial of Robert Hamberg she was in love with the band director when the two began an illicit sexual relationship in 2009.

Now 17, the student, whom the Daily News is not naming due to the nature of the case, was the first witness called by prosecutors in their case against Hamberg.

"I felt like I was in love with him," the teenager said on the stand.

Hamberg, 53, is charged with eight counts of lewd and lascivious battery in the case. Prosecutors say he and his accuser, a 15-year-old freshman at the time, engaged in multiple sexual encounters between February and May 2009.

In more than an hour of testimony under prosecution questioning, the teenager described a relationship that began with hugs, turned into kissing and evolved into something more serious. The two had multiple encounters in a school dressing room, at Hamberg's house and in his car, she testified .

She said Hamberg was able to get her out of class under the guise of tutoring her for band, and she said he promised he would divorce his wife when the teenager became of age.

"He told me when I turned 18 and when he's single we could run off and be together," the girl told jurors.

"Did you believe him?" prosecutor Mara Marzano asked.

"At the time, yes," the accuser responded.

"Did you love him at the time?" Marzano continued.

"Yes," the teenager said.

The prosecution said the relationship, though consensual, was predatory due to Hamberg's age and position.

"This is a consensual, sexual act--acts--in a relationship between a 14-, 15-year-old girl and a man who should know better," Assistant State Attorney Steve Maresca said.

Hamberg attorney Jerry Berry portrayed the accuser as someone seeking attention due to problems at home.

When her parents and administrators pull her aside to ask about a possible relationship with Hamberg, the accuser found herself receiving the attention she wanted, Berry told jurors.

"And she starts embellishing more and more," he said.

Posted at 11:57 a.m.

One day, Hamberg asked her to go to his house while his wife was away, she testifies.

"I was like, 'You're joking,'" she recalls. "I didn't believe that at first."

"Why did you not believe it?" Marzano asks.

"I was kind of shocked," she replies. "I didn't believe I would ever go to his house."

She describes four different trips to his home at Village Walk. She describes the layout of the home and gives details about each room, including the color of the bedspread in the master bedroom, the photographs on the wall and the Tommy Bahama perfume in the master bath.

The accuser says she had several sexual encounters with Hamberg in the home, as well as a failed attempt at sex.

She later described his body for detectives, she recalls, including a mole on his side and his chest, which she described as "man boobs."

She recalls a sexual encounter in their car, as Hamberg drove her around Port Royal. She also recalls a time when a teacher intercepted a note the accuser tried to pass to a friend. The note hinted at the relationship.

One day, a teacher walked into the dressing room as Hamberg and the teenager were together, the accuser testifies. The couple stood up, turned on the lights and pretended they were practicing conducting, she says.

Posted at 11:31 a.m.

The relationship became more physical, the accuser testifies.

The pair regularly absconded to the women's dressing room, where they would hold each other and kiss. They began to touch, she said, and they performed oral sex on one another.

"He asked if I wanted to," she testified. "He said it was a big step and if I wanted to, and I said yeah."

"How did you feel about him?" Marzano asks.

"I felt like I was in love with him," the accuser replies.

She doesn't remember the exact dates of each encounter, but she recalls the time range of the first encounter, around the end of February.

She said that for each meeting they turned the lights out and covered the small window in the dressing room door with a piece of cardboard. They crafted a ready excuse should someone walk in--that Hamberg was coaching the girl through her home problems or that he was teaching her to conduct--the accuser testifies.

But the teenager was never a drum major or potential drum major, she notes.

Posted at 11:10 a.m.

Their relationship progressed after winter break, the accuser said. She and Hamberg traded phone numbers, and they hugged regularly.

Hamberg told the teenager about his wife, she recalls.

"He talked about how they didn't really get along, his marriage wasn't great and how his wife didn't have much time with him," the accuser testifies.

They shared their feelings in late January, she said. He acknowledged the danger of the relationship, and she gave him a kiss on the cheek, which he returned.

They then kissed on the lips in an empty room to the side of the main band room.

"At the time I felt like I was very much in love with him," the accuser said.

Posted at 10:55 a.m.

The teenager appears comfortable on the stand, and she looks directly at Marzano as she answers the prosecutor's questions.

She first met Hamberg at band camp in summer 2008 but came to know him better in her freshman year in band class.

"How did he react with the girls?" Marzano asked.

"Well with certain girls he was flirty and gave certain attention to certain ones," the teen responded.

She said she eventually became one of those girls, and she and Hamberg spoke more frequently, more suggestively. He hugged her before she left for winter break, their first contact. It was a casual hug, but "full-body," she said.

She emailed him later.

""I said, 'Best hug ever,'" she recalled.

"And what did he respond?" Marzano asked.

"He agreed," she said.

Posted at 10:43 a.m.

The state calls its first witness, the accuser.

Posted at 10:34 a.m.

Hamberg made mistakes, Berry concedes.

The popular band director, like any good teacher or coach, was close to his students. Sometimes he put himself too close, in a position that left him vulnerable for baseless accusations.

The hours of phone calls were instructive, Berry said. Hamberg's wife handled the phone bill, and her husband had made her aware of the calls and their purpose.

The accuser could describe Hamberg's home because he took her there one day, after she begged him as a side trip to another function.

She could describe the mole on his stomach because, like other students, she could see it during a recent band camp, when Hamberg's thin shirt was soaked by a hose on a hot day.

When her parents and administrators pull her aside to ask about a possible relationship with Hamberg, the accuser found herself receiving the attention she wanted, Berry told jurors.

"And she starts embellishing more and more," he said.

Berry concluded by askig jurors to look closely at the details and to listen to the witnesses. Hamberg will testify, Berry suggested, as will his wife, Diane Hamberg.

Posted at 10:28 a.m.

Berry began his opening statement before jurors by placing a picture of a spacious open room on an easel--the dressing room where most of the alleged sexual encounters took place, he told jurors.

"I don't think this is what you had in mind," he said.

The reality of the dressing room points to the abundant contradictions in the accuser's accounts, Berry said. That a teacher would put himself in such a position in a room frequented by teachers, administrators and even deputies, is ridiculous, he said.

The accuser's account stands alone, Berry said, with no DNA, video or other physical evidence. She stood to gain from the attention her accusations brought, the attorney said.

"You're going to find that she was not getting much attention from either parent," Berry told jurors.

Posted at 10:08 a.m.

Maresca refers to a chart he's placed on a nearby easel. The pair spent nine hours on the phone together during the course of their relationship, he said, all of it mapped out by prosecutors.

Eventually, the relationship turned sexual, Maresca said.

Their encounters took place in a school dressing room, at Hamberg's home and in the car.

Hamberg told the teenager he loved her, that he would leave his wife for her when she turned 18.

The accuser would meet Hamberg by getting out of other classes on the excuse that she was practicing her instrument with the band director, Maresca continued.

"This man had such status at Gulf Coast High School that he could come and go as he pleased. He could get her out of class so she could fulfill his needs," he said.

Caught by another teacher in an inappropriate position one day in a changing room, Hamberg pretended he was directing the student, the prosecutor told jurors.

That teacher went to the administration, as did another student, whom the accuser told about the relationship. Eventually, the accuser's parents were informed and everything was revealed, Maresca said.

The sexual acts were consensual, Maresca acknowledged, but he said the relationship was predatory, he insists.

"This is a consensual, sexual act--acts--in a relationship between a 14-, 15-year-old girl and a man who should know better," he said.

Posted at 9:50 a.m.

Pacing behind a lectern before jurors, Maresca begins his statement by naming the victim and recounting her introduction to Gulf Coast High School, its band and Hamberg.

The girl, 14 in the fall of 2008 and talented at a certain instrument in the band, quickly developed a crush on her teacher, Maresca said.

As director of the Gulf Coast High band, Hamberg enjoyed a certain status, one that he "lorded over" the campus, Maresca told jurors. The teacher enjoyed the attention of his female students, and in the case of the accuser, he pursued those affections.

The pair traded personal email addresses and cell phone numbers, he said. They began to meet privately, ostensibly for instrument lessons.

"In the time they spent together, there was hugging, then there was kissing," Maresca said. "And the relationship built and built and built."

Posted at 9:28 a.m.

After handling some housekeeping matters related to the charging document and possible evidence, the court brings out the jury.

The panel comprises three women and five men. Two of the jurors will be chosen as alternates before deliberations.

Hamberg wears a dark suit and is seated next to his attorney, Jerry Berry. Assistant state attorneys Mara Marzano and Steve Maresca occupy the state's table.

Witnesses were asked to leave the courtroom in advance of the jury's entry. Hamberg's wife, Diane Hamberg, is not in the courtroom.

Maresca is to give the state's opening statement.

Posted at 8:55 a.m.

Today is day two of the trial of Gulf Coast High School band director Robert Hamberg, and opening statements are expected shortly.

I'll be posting regular updates from today's proceedings.

Hamberg, 53, is charged with eight counts of lewd and lascivious battery on the accusations of a former band student who said the pair had multiple sexual encounters at the school and in Hamberg's home.

Monday, attorneys selected a jury of six and two alternates.

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