SANTA ANA (CNS) - A Homeland Security employee inappropriately touched and kissed three girls in Irvine, including a relative, a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday, while the defendant's attorney said some of the allegations are a misunderstanding and some never happened.
Terry Edward Keegan, 60, is charged with six counts of lewd acts with a minor younger than 14 and a count of continuous sexual abuse of a child, all felonies, as well as misdemeanor counts of child annoyance and destroying evidence. He could face up to 22 years in prison if convicted, according to Deputy District Attorney Juliet Oliver.
One of the alleged victims has lived with Keegan since she was about 4 years old and her grandmother took custody of her, she testified. The other two alleged victims were friends of hers, Oliver said.
One of the friends told a doctor in 2016 that Keegan would pick her up and molest her when she would visit with the defendant's relative when she was 8 to 10 years old, Oliver said. The doctor called Irvine police, but they did not do any follow-up and "the investigation fell through the cracks," Oliver said in her opening statement of the trial.
"Admittedly, it should have been done," Oliver said of a follow-up by investigators.
The alleged victim also told investigators that once, while at a community pool, Keegan began taking pictures of her and her sister and said he was "testing out a new camera," Oliver said.
Irvine police were contacted again in the spring of 2021 after his relative and her friend were hanging around during spring break, Oliver said. The two were 16 at the time.
Keegan also made inappropriate comments to one of the girls and insisted on taking her out to shop for bathing suits, the prosecutor said. He called around to stores during the pandemic to see which ones had changing rooms, she said.
When they were at the pool, one of the girls saw him trying to take a picture of her and she said to stop, Oliver said. But Keegan said she looked cute and asked her to pose with the girl he lived with, Oliver said.
The friend told the girl who was living with the defendant that just before Easter he had touched her buttocks, Oliver said. The relative said that Keegan made her feel uncomfortable, the prosecutor said.
When the one girl told her mother, she called police in April 2021, Oliver said. The girl said Keegan would often make "inappropriate" comments about her body and breast size over the five years the girls were friends, Oliver said.
The relative said she found a vibrator in his bedroom while she was looking for scissors when she was in the sixth grade and he told her it was for an ex-girlfriend and that he was saving it for her, Oliver said.
The girl also recounted how Keegan would often expose himself, walking around nude in his bedroom, which was across from hers, and that once when they were in a hotel she saw him masturbating in the bed next to hers, Oliver alleged. Keegan also allegedly took her to the sex toy part of a Spencer's store once and told her she would enjoy the devices, Oliver said.
The girl testified that he once slipped his tongue in her mouth while kissing her good night when she was 12.
She said he was the only "father figure" she has ever had and that she would call him "grampa."
She said her grandmother is "like my mom. She does everything a mom does for me."
Keegan "has always been like a father figure to me," she said.
On the night he kissed her good night "he put a tongue in my mouth," she testified. She said it lasted a second or two. Occasionally he would kiss her on the lips before bedtime, characterizing it as "just a peck," but that was rare and he mostly kissed her forehead.
When she felt his tongue, she "just remembers feeling uncomfortable. ... I didn't know what to do or how to respond," she testified.
She chose to just go to sleep and "pretend it didn't happen," she said.
She didn't tell her grandmother because she feared it would end her relationship with the defendant and, "I didn't want her to be alone," she said.
After that night she would always "lower her head" to get a kiss on the forehead, she testified.
The accuser also said, "I still love him."
In December of 2021, charges were filed against Keegan, but they were sealed due to his employment with Homeland Security, Oliver said. Officers wanted to be able to execute a search warrant before he was aware of the charges, she added.
But the charges were unsealed on Jan. 26, 2022, and when officers arrived to serve the search warrant Keegan had a copy of the criminal complaint on his bed along with boxed-up electronic devices and laptops, Oliver said. Investigators also found a trashed hard drive and thumb drive in his garbage that could not be pieced back together, the prosecutor added.
Keegan's attorney, Jay Moorhead of the Orange County Public Defender's Office, agreed with Oliver that the case would boil down to "criminal intent."
Keegan met the one girl's grandmother when they were taking a class at Irvine Valley College in 2001, Moorhead said. They moved in together and never got married, "But they basically treated each other as husband and wife," Moorhead said.
Keegan acted as a stepfather to the children his partner adopted, Moorhead said.
"He taught them how to ride their bikes, you name it -- he was a father figure to these kids," Moorhead said.
"I expect you to hear from Mr. Keegan" in the trial, Moorhead said.
Keegan worked for Homeland Security and was a reserve sheriff's deputy.
Regarding one of the girl's allegations, Moorhead said his client was "working rotating shifts" at the time and was not home when he was accused of molesting the girl.
The children were in afterschool daycare at the time and "He wasn't even there most of the time they came over," Moorhead said.
Keegan "never picked her up," Moorhead said.
"It just wasn't possible. It just didn't happen," the defense attorney said.
Keegan was an amateur photographer with a passion for his hobby, Moorhead said.
He is also a "quirky guy," who enjoys shopping, Moorhead said.
He would often take his relative and her friend shopping and would buy clothes for the friend while taking pictures of them to send to his partner to approve before purchasing, Moorhead said.
"There was no sexual intent," Moorhead said.
One of the accusers asked Keegan to take pictures of her playing softball, Moorhead said.
Keegan does not remember ever using his tongue in a kiss with his relative, Moorhead said.
"He's going to tell you he doesn't remember sticking his tongue in her mouth," Moorhead said.
When he was confronted with the allegations in April 2021, his partner and the kids moved out for a week to live with her mother, but then they all moved back in together again a short time later, Moorhead said.
Keegan also consulted with attorneys at the time who advised him to keep checking court records to see if charges are filed, which he did. When he saw the charges filed against him he printed off a copy as his attorneys suggested, Moorhead said.
"I anticipate there will be zero evidence that the evidence found in his trash can pertains to this case," Moorhead said. "I do believe there will be reasonable doubt and I'm going to ask you to find him not guilty."