Trial opens in pandering case

A 12-member jury heard opening arguments and testimony from key witnesses Wednesday in Auglaize County Common Pleas Court involving pandering obsenity charges against a Lima man.

Ben Hadding, 38, of Lima, faces two second-degree felonies and two fourth-degree felonies for pandering obscenity of a minor, charges that stemmed from events that is believed to have occurred approximately between April 2011 and September 2011. The minor involved was the 13-year-old living at the same residence with Hadding when he lived in Cridersville.

Hadding faces a maximum sentence of 19 years of prison and $40,000 in fines if convicted on all four charges.

The pandering claims were made last year when another minor at the residence, an 11-year-old girl, called 911 reporting she had been hit by a 13-year-old girl at the residence. The other events came out in questioning after an officer arrived at the scene.

The 11-year-old girl and 13-year-old girl took the stand and were questioned at length by Auglaize County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Andy Augsburger and Stephen Chamberlain, attorney for Hadding.

Both testified to finding a camera at times in a mesh clothes hamper underneath clothes in the bathroom several times.

“I didn’t think anything about it the first time,” the 13-year-old told the jury during her testimony, “but I started getting curious after a few times.”

She testified that she found the camera six or seven times before discussing it with her mother.

Augsburger entered into evidence and showed four different recordings to the jury during the proceedings, including one where a hidden recorder recorded the 13-year-old naked and getting dressed after she had showered. The camera had been hidden underneath another bed in the room shared by the two girls.

Three other videos also were shown to the jury, including one where the 13-year-old girl was exposed by someone and recorded while she slept and another time where her tank top she was sleeping in was pulled up.

Both girls claimed they did not know how to use the camera as a recorder and that they had never used the equipment. Both said in their testimony that they were completely unaware of the hidden recorder in the bedroom.

The 13-year-old said the camera did not appear in the bathroom after she discussed the camera being there with her mother.

“Mom said, ‘Next time you find it bring it to me,’ ”

the 13-year-old said. “I found it one more time and brought it to mom’s attention. I think she talked to Ben about it. That was the last time I seen it in the bathroom.”

The mother of the 13-year-old, who was involved in a relationship with Hadding, also testified during the first day of the jury trial. Hadding and the mother each have a child from previous relationships as well as another child together.

In opening statements, Augsburger said the evidence will show Hadding knowingly recorded the young girls for lustful purposes and is guilty of the charges.

Chamberlain said while the physical evidence is accurate, his client had no knowledge of the recordings and that there “is no credible evidence that shows Hadding made the recordings.”

Chamberlain said Hadding would testify that he had nothing to do with the recordings.

Chamberlain and Hadding rejected a negotiated deal earlier in the case. Prosecutors offered dropping one of the fourth-degree charges and one of the second-degree felonies in exchange for guilty pleas on the other two charges.