WEST CHESTER – Lonnie Flagg has been in and out of trouble, and in and out of state prison, since he was a young man in his 30s. Now 61, Flagg, of Phoenixville, finds himself not only back in trouble but back in a Common Pleas courtroom on trial for an attack on a female friend.
Flagg is accused of sexually assaulting a woman who was a fellow client at a Phoenixville counseling agency and who he had befriended after his release from state prison on charges that stemmed from an attack on two borough women in 2003 — including one he met after his parole on rape charges after nearly 20 years behind bars.
The woman, a 58-year-old mother of three, told police and an administrator at the Fellowship Health Resources Center that while she was working on a painting in the clinic’s art room, Flagg, who she had had known for about one year, came up behind her. He hugged her at first, but then began fondling her breasts, eventually putting his hand under her shirt.
When she pushed him away, he left the room, but soon came back and put his hands in her underwear and fondled her buttocks, she told police.
“He took advantage of an opportunity, and took advantage of their friendship,” Assistant District Attorney Max O’Keefe, who is prosecuting the case in Judge Anne Marie Wheatcraft’s courtroom at the Chester County Justice Center, said in his opening statement Wednesday to the nine men and three women on the jury. “And he took advantage of her as a human being.”
The women’s name is being withheld because of the nature of the allegations.
O’Keefe, in his opening, alluded to inconsistencies in the story that the woman had given to those she had told about the alleged incident. He said she had likely been mistaken when she said the touching had last more than one minute, and had given different versions of what Flagg said to her when he was allegedly molesting her.
But O’Keefe said she had been consistent in describing the events surrounding the assault, and urged the jury to reject the notion that the alleged victim had made the story up.
“That is not the type of woman that she is,” O’Keefe said of the woman. “Is she confused? Maybe. Malicious? No.”
But Christopher Mannix, the Philadelphia attorney who is representing Flagg in the case, told the jury that his client would flatly deny having had any contact with the woman whatsoever, even though they had been close enough that the woman would visit Flagg at his home and watch television with him on his bed.
“In his entire life, Mr. Flagg has never touched (the victim) in any way – sexually, romantically, or affectionately. In no way, ever,” Mannix told the panel of jurists.
He suggested that the woman had manufactured the story about the alleged assault because she was upset with Flagg for an incident in which he verbally criticized her in crude terms during an encounter in the health center’s art room.
“He cut her up, and he was scathing,” Mannix said.
Mannix said that the woman’s story changed every time she gave told it, to police or in court. “Every single time she tells a story about what happened, her story changes in material ways,” he said, questioning her credibility.
Flagg is charged with a single count of indecent assault, a misdemeanor.
In 1983, Flagg was convicted in Chester County Court of raping a woman he sponsored in Alcoholics Anonymous. He was originally sentenced to 80 years in prison, but that sentence was later reduced to a maximum of 18˝ years, which Flagg served, court records indicate.
Flagg’s rape trial 20 years ago drew attention not only because of the seriousness of the crime, but because a relative of the victim was found murdered in her South Coventry home nine days before Flagg was charged with the rape.
According to stories published at the time, Flagg was a prime suspect in the murder. Investigators at the time said they had witnesses who placed a man matching Flagg’s description at the murder scene, but both witnesses failed to pick him out of a lineup.
The murder victim’s car was found a block from Flagg’s home, and paperwork from inside the vehicle was found in Flagg’s Phoenixville apartment.
Charges were never filed in the murder.
Flagg escaped a conviction for attempted murder of two women in 2004 when a Montgomery County jury acquitted him of those serious charges.
He had been charged with choking a Pottstown woman in July 2003 during an argument. The jury also acquitted Flagg of charges he attempted to murder and assault the woman and her daughter when he allegedly tried to run the younger woman’s car off the road with his Saturn sedan as the daughter and her mother were on their way to the Pottstown police station to report the alleged choking.
Flagg was convicted of two counts of recklessly endangering another person, one count of criminal mischief and a summary charge of causing an accident involving damage to a vehicle, crimes arising from the crash. In April 2004, he was sentenced to serve 3˝ to seven years in state prison on those charges.
The trial for the new charges in Wheatcraft’s courtroom is expected to last through the week.