LIVE BLOG: Band director testifies about his previous tenure in Georgia

Defendant Robert Hamberg listens to state witnesses during day three of his trial Wednesday at the Collier County Courthouse in Naples. Hamberg, 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

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Defendant Robert Hamberg listens to state witnesses during day three of his trial Wednesday at the Collier County Courthouse in Naples. Hamberg, 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 3:29 p.m.

Court will wrap for the day after the defense announced it would present no other witnesses.

Hardt has dismissed jurors, telling them to expect rebuttal testimony tomorrow morning, followed by closing arguments and jury instructions.

The rebuttal testimony, one assumes, would come from Hamberg's ex-wife, whom prosecutors vowed to fly in and have testify as to the use of Hamberg's tongue. Hamberg told jurors is tongue-tied, a medical condition that keeps him from sticking his tongue out beyond his teeth. Hardt allowed him to show jurors his tongue.

Posted at 3:21 p.m.

Berry's redirect amounts to one question: "Did you ever touch or do anything appropriate with (the accuser)," he asks his client.

"No," Hamberg says.

Posted at 3:07 p.m.

Maresca has just finished his cross. He touched on many of the claims Hamberg made in his direct examination, including the use of the dressing rooms as "practice rooms," the way the band director learned of the investigation ("I was shocked") and the reason his accuser left other classes early to practice music with Hamberg.

"(The accuser) really cared about you, didn't she?" Maresca asked.

"I don't know," Hamberg replied.

He said his role was as a teacher.

The prosecutor ended with a dig:

"She's 15," Maresca began. "She likes to text, you text. She wants to see your house, you show her your house. If she wants to be with you, would you be with her? Who's the adult in this relationship?"

Posted at 2:47 p.m.

Maresca is making the most out of his license to mention Hamberg's former job in Norcross, Ga. The band director resigned after questions were raised about his relationship with a band student at the time, his current wife.

The prosecutor asks why Hamberg gave the accuser, a 15-year-old girl, a tour of his home, alone. Hamberg admits that, in retrospect, it wasn't wise.

"Sir, you had this situation in Norcross. You didn't learn anything from it?" Maresca asks.

Hamberg paused. "She wasn't a student at the time," he said of his current wife.

"So that makes all the difference?" Maresca responded.

"I knew I wouldn't do anything inappropriate," the band director replied.

Posted at 2:39 p.m.

Maresca moves on to the phone records, more than 9 hours of cell phone, text and land-line minutes between Hamberg and his accuser between Feb. 27 and May 16.

Hamberg says he talked to the accuser about her family problems and her music instruction.

Maresca asks why Hamberg didn't have the girl talk to a guidance counselor for her problems at home.

They weren't serious problems, Hamberg testifies.

"She just wanted to talk and I'm that kind of a teacher," Hamberg says.

Posted at 2:32 p.m.

Maresca moves on to a note written by the accuser and intercepted by teachers. The note, mentioned several times before in this trial, suggested the girl was having a relationship with a teacher.

Two teachers testified yesterday that after their discovery of the note, Hamberg abruptly approached them and made reference to it, saying 'I guess I better stop making out with your students.'

"How long have you been a teacher?" Maresca asks.

"Twenty-eight years," Hamberg replies.

"You think that's something you should say to another teacher?" Maresca continues.

"I thought it was funny at the time," Hamberg says.

Posted at 2:17 p.m.

Maresca begins his cross-examination. He quickly brings up Norcross, Ga.

Hamberg concedes that he first met his future wife, Diane Hamberg, then Diane Hancock, when she was a freshman band student at Norcross. Robert Hamberg was married with children at the time.

Diane Hancock babysat for Hamberg and his wife at the time, Hamberg testifies. He later married her when she was 18 and out of school.

"So when you said you were naive about putting yourself in that kind of position, You were in that kind of position in the 80s, correct?" Maresca said.

"No, it's different," Hamberg replies.

Posted at 2:10 p.m.

Another twist, this one coming at the expense of the defense.

During testimony, Hamberg suggests he was naive to how he should act around a student. Maresca calls a sidebar, the jury is excused and Maresca makes his argument: Hamberg has just made reference to his prior employment, meaning the state should be allowed to question the band director on his former job in Georgia.

Hardt ruled in January that testimony about Hamberg's tenure in Georgia would be off-limits.

This time the judge agrees with Maresca--questioning will be allowed as to his position at Norcross High School in Gwinnett County, Georgia.

"The door is open," Hardt says.

Posted at 2:01 p.m.

A surreal moment: After testifying that he is "tongue-tied," or has an extra piece of skin beneath his tongue, Hamberg is allowed to stand before jurors and show them his tongue.

Prosecutors stand near the jury box to get a better look, as well.

Hamberg says the condition makes it painful for him to stick out his tongue.

Posted at 1:56 p.m.

Hamberg said he gave the accuser a ride alone four different times. Sometimes he took her home, she says. One time he took her to the Tommy Bahama restaurant for after-school appetizers with several of the band students.

Each time he asked her to call her parents, he says. She always said she did.

On the way back from the restaurant on the one occasion, the girl wanted to "see the big houses" on the Gulf nearby, Hamberg says. He drove her a couple blocks out of the way so they could see the homes, he says.

The accuser has testified that Hamberg performed a sexual act on her during a drive through Port Royal on the trip home from Tommy Bahama.

Posted at 1:45 p.m.

Hamberg testifies that the accuser often came to him with problems. She'd ask if she could talk to him later, and he'd agree, he said.

"I told her I'd text her to let her know when I'm done with my work and I'm relaxing and was free to call," he said.

Berry asks about the accuser's visit to his home. Hamberg said he was to take her home from school one day, as her parents couldn't make it. She asked to see his home instead, and he agreed.

"She heard that it was very cool and it looked like Tommy Bahama--that was sort of my thing at the high school--and she wanted to see it," Hamberg recalled.

He said he gave her a tour of the Bonita Springs house and then took her home, he said. Nothing inappropriate happened.

Posted at 1:40 p.m.

Hamberg wears a brown jacket and tie, and he folds his hands on the stand as he testifies.

He answers questions about his education and his duties at the school, and he describes his classes and summer band camp.

Returning to a running thread of the trial, Berry asks if students may have seen his underwear for any reason in school or at camp. The accuser described Hamberg's underwear for detectives as part of the investigation.

Hamberg says it's possible--he sometimes pulls his underwear up to cover his "muffin tops."

The former band director describes himself as close to his students and involved with their problems in school and out. The accuser, he says, had many problems.

Posted at 1:28 p.m.

Robert Hamberg has just taken the stand.

Posted at 1:27 p.m.

We're back from lunch. Before the jury enters, the case takes a turn.

Berry wants to admit a photo of Hamberg's naked buttocks to support Diane Hamberg's testimony about a noticeable scar. Attorneys from both sides chuckle about the request, but there seem to be no reservations.

Berry then asks that Hamberg be allowed to show jurors his tongue and the fact that he can't stick it out beyond his teeth.

Maresca vehemently opposes.

"OK Judge, where are the medical records?" he asks. "This is kind of like an OJ Simpson put-your-hand-in-the-glove."

Maresca vows that if Hamberg is allowed to show his tongue to jurors, the state will fly his ex-wife down from Georgia to testify for the state about his tongue.

"Well, you better get on the phone," Hardt says.

Posted at 12:17 p.m.

The court is at lunch until 1:15.

Posted at 12:15 p.m.

Marzano presses Diane Hamberg about what she knew and when she knew it.

She mentions the texts, the fact that the accuser identified the color of the bed spread and the music lessons. Diane Hamberg concedes that their paying for the lessons was her husband's idea. Never before had they paid for a student's lessons, she said.

She questions when Diane Hamberg began visiting the school unannounced, and she wonders what access the defendant had to the school and its classrooms.

Marzano then returns to something Diane Hamberg told Berry--that her husband has a medical condition making it impossible for him to stick his tongue out beyond his teeth.

The accuser testified that Hamberg kissed her with tongue and that he performed oral sex on her ( the oral sex allegation represents one of the eight lewd and lascivious counts against Hamberg).

Diane Hamberg says she can't remember the name of the condition.

Berry declines redirect, and Diane Hamberg steps down.

Posted at 12:07 p.m.

Marzano begins her cross-examination by tip-toeing a line set months ago by Judge Fred Hardt.

She asks Diane Hamberg her age at the time of marriage with her husband and inquires if she ever played in a school band.

Diane Hamberg briefly appears uncomfortable but answers the questions--she was 18, and she was a band student in high school.

In January, Hardt agreed with a defense request to bar mention of how the Hambergs met. Robert Hamberg was band director at Norcross High School in Georgia, where Diane Hamberg, then Diane Hancock, was a student.

Against her parents' wishes, Hancock dated and married Robert Hamberg immediately after graduating from the school.

Berry objects after Marzano's band question, and the prosecutor takes her inquiry in another direction.

Posted at 11:53 a.m.

In composed, easy testimony, Diane Hamberg begins by describing her role in her husband's band. A bank manager in Naples, she said she found time to visit her husband's band three to five times a week at the school. Some of those visits were unannounced, she said.

"And he would have no idea when or what time you were showing up, right?" Berry asked.

"Correct," Diane Hamberg responded.

The questions turn more personal.

Hamberg tells jurors her husband's pubic hair is brown and graying, not "jet black" as the accuser told detectives. She says she shaved her husband's pubic hair in the spring of 2009, and she described marks on both his genitals and his buttocks. The accuser mentioned neither mark.

Diane Hamberg says she always adjusts the blinds in her home before leaving for work, so she would have noticed if the blinds had been closed when she returned.

"I'm a little OCD," she quips.

The accuser has suggested Robert Hamberg closed the blinds when they were at the house together.

Diane Hamberg continues by telling jurors she was aware of the phone calls and texts between her husband and the accuser. Her husband is close to his students, she said.

She describes her marriage, and she said nothing changed in the spring of 2009.

"We have a wonderful, strong, loving marriage," she said. "Based on trust, honesty."

She smiles at her husband warmly from the stand.

Posted at 11:23 a.m.

Robert Hamberg's wife, Diane, has just taken the stand.

Posted at 11:19 a.m.

After a brief recess and a quick cross-examination of Pilarski by Berry, the state rests its case.

Berry asked the detective if he conducted any DNA or body fluid testing from the crime scene. Pilarski said that outside of looking for condoms, he didn't.

Berry then moves twice for dismissal of the case; Hardt denies both requests.

Posted at 10:39 a.m.

Under Marzano's questioning, and while referencing a chart before jurors, Pilarski describes the near daily contact between Hamberg and the accuser by phone and text between Feb. 27 and May 16, 2009.

A pattern in the records quickly becomes apparent: On almost every weekday, Hamberg texts the teenager in the afternoon, typically between 2:30 and 4 p.m., after which she calls his home phone to talk.

The conversations vary in time, but they typically begin and end in the afternoon. In the evening, the pair texts back and forth. They have no contact on the weekends.

On May 8, 2009, for example, Hamberg sent a text to the girl at 3:37 p.m. She called his home phone three minutes later, and the two talked for 10 minutes. The call ended, but the teenager called again minutes later for another 10 minute conversation. She sent a final text to Hamberg at 4:58 p.m.

The records appear to match the teenager's testimony from Tuesday. She said Hamberg texted her most days after school to give her the OK to call his home phone.

Defense attorney Jerry Berry downplayed the records in his opening statement, explaining that Hamberg's wife checked and paid the phone bills every month.

Berry will now cross-examine Pilarski.

Posted at 9:55 a.m.

The accuser's parents are the next two witnesses for the state. The mother takes the stand first.

The woman grabs a tissue immediately upon sitting down, and she looks a little stunned. But this is a brief appearance.

Assistant State Attorney Steve Maresca asks the woman if she ever gave Hamberg permission to drive her daughter anywhere or to take her to his home.

The mother says Hamberg was once allowed to take her daughter and several other selected students to Tommy Bahama for dinner, a reward for classwork, the mother said. But she never gave permission for the girl to be at Hamberg's home.

Maresca asks about private music lessons Hamberg arranged for the accuser. The mother said she understood the money was coming from scholarship--she forwarded pay stubs to Hamberg for the scholarship, she said.

The music teacher, Michael Baron, testified yesterday that the money came from the Hambergs, in a check signed by Diane Hamberg.

The accuser's father gives similar testimony as his ex-wife. He never gave Hamberg permission to drive his daughter anywhere or to take her home, he said.

"I"ve never spoken to Mr. Hamberg," he said. "I've never given permission to him to do anything."

Collier County detective Frank Pilarski takes the stand.

Posted at 9:25 a.m.

Collier Sheriff's crime scene analyst Tammy Taylor is the state's first witness for the day. Taylor responded to the Hamberg home in May after deputies executed a search warrant.

Assistant State Attorney Mara Marzano takes the witness through a series of photographs of the home. The purpose here seems to be to verify details of the home given by the accuser yesterday. Among them:

* Photographs of Robert and Diane Hamberg on the master bedroom wall

* Tommy Bahama perfume in the master bath

* A liquor serving cart and a humidor in the kitchen

Taylor said she also took a pair of Hamberg's underwear into evidence. Marzano now approaches with the pair as an exhibit.

Posted at 9 a.m.

Today is day three of the Robert Hamberg trial and the second day of testimony.

The state is expected to wrap its case today, with several more witnesses to take the stand. One will be Frank Pilarski, the Collier County Sheriff's detective who worked the case.

Robert Hamberg, 53, is charged with eight counts of lewd and lascivious battery on the accusations of a 15-year-old student at Gulf Coast High School who said she had a sexual relationship with the band director.

Tuesday, both sides gave opening statements, and the accuser testified against Hamberg for two and a half hours. Several teachers testified about their experience with the student and with Hamberg, a respected teacher in a school well known for its band.

The Daily News is not naming the accuser due to the nature of the case.

The defense is expected to begin its case after the state concludes with its witnesses. Attorney Jerry Berry has said Hamberg will testify, as will his wife, Diane Hamberg.

A defendant isn't required to testify in his trial; most make it a game-time decision.

A jury of six will deliberate over the case. Each count of lewd and lascivious battery is a second-degree felony and carries a maximum 15 years in prison and $10,000 fine.

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