In a surprising twist, a gay couple in Connecticut withdrew their no-contest pleas and told the judge they intend to publicly fight allegations they sexually abused some of their foster sons.
The case against George Harasz and Douglas Wirth is a complicated one that has literally pitted "brother against brother," reports Hartford station WFSB 3 Connecticut. The married men, who adopted nine boys from three families over the last decade, were arrested in December of 2011 after two of the foster children came forward with claims of abuse, according to the Hartford Courant.
Harasz, 48, was charged with sexual assault in the first degree, two counts of injury to a minor, aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault in the third degree and cruelty to persons. Wirth, 43, was charged with sexual assault in the third degree and injury to a minor.
Both pleaded not guilty in January, according to the Associated Press.
WFSB reports that, from the start, prosecutors had trouble proving some of the allegations, which included raping children and locking them in cages.
At the same time, the couple's relatives, as well as several of their other foster children, refuted the allegations, according to the Courant. One friend of the couple went so far as to accuse the alleged victims of attempting to extort the men.
"George and Doug are pretty well off, from what I've heard, they [the accusers] wanted money and when they didn't want to give them the money, all of a sudden this came out," friend George Matuza told local station WTNH News 8. "They've always seemed like good people and the kids didn't seem abused, never showed any outward signs."
On Friday, explicit new details about alleged assaults, revealed in the course of a pre-sentencing investigation, worked to sink the couple's plea deal, the Courant reports.
"[The son said] he has scars from being held down and raped and that those injuries were inflicted by a weapon," Prosecutor David Zagaja said, quoting the report, per the Courant.
Zagaja and the couple's defense attorneys asked the judge to vacate the deal -- which would have spared the pair from jail time -- and take the case to court.
"This case needs to be tried so these men can clear their names," Harasz's attorney Hubert J. Santos told the Courant.
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