WILKES-BARRE – After just under 10 minutes of deliberations Tuesday, a Luzerne County jury convicted a man who failed to appear for his trial on sexual assault charges.
Clyde Tonkin, 30, of Main Street, Jenkins Township, was found guilty of seven charges relating to the sexual assault of a now-14-year-old girl in 2011, including involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and statutory sexual assault.
“I’m so relieved it’s over for my daughter and our family,” the teen’s mother, Jodi Miller, 38, said. “We look forward to when they hall him in and he gets sentenced.”
Tonkin will be sentenced on July 16 on the assault charges and other unrelated charges. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison on the statutory sexual assault charge and 10 years maximum on several of the other charges.
Tonkin was scheduled to stand trial Monday, but failed to appear at the Luzerne County Courthouse. Investigators say Tonkin cut off an ankle bracelet he was required to wear as part of his bail conditions and fled the area.
Assistant District Attorney Nancy Violi asked that the trial be held in Tonkin’s absence, a request Judge Joseph Sklarosky Jr. granted.
A jury was selected and testimony began and concluded Tuesday. Tonkin was represented by attorney John Sobota.
“(Cases like this) are never easy,” Exeter Sgt. Len Galli said. “The evidence against (Tonkin) was overwhelming and the jury was in and out.”
Galli said investigators have been tracking Tonkin over the past few days and he is confident Tonkin will be apprehended.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Tonkin’s mother, Christine Uslin, of Ohio, said her son is innocent of the charges and that if he were guilty of rape she would not be standing up for him.
“I’m going to hire an attorney and file an appeal,” Uslin said. “I’m not going to lose my son over someone who goes into court and lies.”
Uslin said there is more to the story than prosecutors say. She said she does not know where her son is.
The 14-year-old testified Tuesday she trusted Tonkin and even regarded him as a father-figure in her life. Until, she said, he began sexually assaulting her – even to the point where she became pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl.
“He raped me,” the girl testified in the first day of Tonkin’s trial while holding a stuffed bear. “Eventually, I stopped fighting him. I thought I was in love with him, but I was also still scared of him.”
The girl was the first to testify at Tonkin’s trial, even though Tonkin was not present Tuesday. He had been released from prison on bail in January.
The girl said that in November 2011, she discovered she was 28 weeks pregnant. She told Tonkin of the pregnancy, she testified, and Tonkin said the two would “go away.”
Tonkin instructed the teen in February 2012 to write a letter that she was going to her father’s home in Louisiana. She took her mother’s bank card and the two drove to Ohio, where a car Tonkin purchased had broken down.
The girl said the two checked into a hotel and she began to have stomach pains. Thinking she was in labor or that there was a problem with the baby, Tonkin drove her to an Ohio hospital.
After she was released from the hospital a short time later, police arrived at the hotel room where the couple was staying, and the girl was eventually returned to her mother in Pennsylvania. The teen gave birth to her daughter a few days later.
Galli testified he interviewed Tonkin shortly before Tonkin was arrested in June 2012 and that at first he denied having any inappropriate contact with the girl.
Upon further discussion, Galli testified, Tonkin said it was the girl’s idea to go to Louisiana. Galli said Tonkin told him he did have sexual contact with her, but that it was never rape.
Tonkin allegedly told Galli that he and the girl never “ did anything she didn’t want to do” and that he never forced her to have sex.
The first time they had an encounter, Tonkin allegedly told Galli, Tonkin was drunk and the girl initiated the sexual contact.