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Deputy denies sexual relationship with teen

Two weeks into his trial for alleged sexual misdeeds with a 14-year-old babysitter last summer, Kitsap County Sheriff Deputy Michael Kleinfelder had his turn in the witness box Thursday morning.

Dividing his attention between the attorneys questioning him and the jurors who will decide his fate next week, Kleinfelder vehemently denied ever having any type of sexual relationship with the teenager in 2001 and 2002.

The girl testified late last week that over the course of two years she and Kleinfelder, 33, had a friendship that escalated into a sexual relationship, including multiple incidents of intercourse and oral sex.

Kleinfelder is charged with two counts of child rape and four counts of child molestation.

Kleinfeld’s attorney, Clifford Morey of Tacoma, led the deputy through his first meetings with the teenaged babysitter, after he and his then-wife and infant son moved into a quiet Port Orchard neighborhood across the street from the girl and her family in the summer of 2000.

“She was very, very young,” Kleinfelder said. “Very quiet. Very reserved.”

But Kleinfelder said that over the following months the girl came out of her shell and babysat for him and his wife frequently.

“She was a godsend for us,” he testified. “She pretty much became part of the family, per se.”

“Did you like her?” Morey asked.

“I did,” Kleinfelder answered. “I still do.”

Morey then led Kleinfelder through the physical details of what the deputy characterized as both a brother-sister and mentoring relationship.

“I felt very honored to be in that position (mentor),” Kleinfelder said. But he didn’t deny his mentoring tended toward the physical.

Kleinfelder admitted under questioning that he wrested with the girl and pinned her on the ground, demonstrating police takedown procedures many times. He also admitted sometimes wearing only a tee-shirt during the wrestling matches where he would end up lying on top of her.

He admitted tickling the girl on more than one occasion, and also admitted hugging the girl and kissing her on the cheek and forehead at different times.

“We hugged in front of the girl’s entire family,” he said. “Hugged and wrestled.”

But when Morey asked if he’d ever had a sexual relationship with the girl, he bristled. “Never,” he said. “I never touched her in an inappropriate manner.” Kleinfelder said he noticed that the girl had begun dressing like him, but defended that as a normal byproduct of being mentored. The deputy said he himself had idolized an uncle who is now a fire chief in California when he was a youth.

Kleinfelder also didn’t deny picking the girl up at her junior high school on more than one occasion in his patrol car. He appeared pleased to recount the details of his “nothing inappropriate” relationship with the teenager.

“She liked to take pictures of us together...and pictures of me (alone),” he testified.

“I kissed her on the side of the head, on the cheek and on the forehead,” Kleinfelder said. “But I never kissed her in that manner (mouth to mouth). Never, at any point, I never did anything that was inappropriate.”

During a brief cross-examination by Deputy Prosecutor Neil Wachter, Kleinfelder said he saw no need to go to the babysitter’s parents and warn them the teenage girl was getting too involved with him.

“I never felt it had gotten to that point,” he said. “I was her brother. I was her mentor. Yes, she adored me, but I didn’t see it as inappropriate.”

Both the defense and the prosecution rested their cases shortly before noon Thursday.

Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jay B. Roof cautioned the jurors not to discuss, read or talk about the case in any way, and sent them home until Monday morning, when closing arguments are slated for 9 a.m.

If convicted on all six counts he’s charged with, Kleinfelder faces up to 20 years in prison.

The deputy currently remains on paid administrative leave and is not incarcerated. If he is acquitted next week, Kleinfelder will still face an internal administrative investigation by the Kitsap County Sheriff Department, a procedure required by law.

If convicted there would be no administrative hearing since, as a Sheriff’s Department source noted, “You can’t appear for duty if you’re locked up.”

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