AUGUSTA — A former Oakland man testified Tuesday that he and his then-girlfriend, Sarah B. Conway, performed sex acts in front of two small children and that Conway sexually assaulted one of them and had sexual contact with both of them.

Stephen R. Smith, 38, was the first witness called in the jury trial of Sarah B. Conway, 28, now of Canaan, New Hampshire. She has pleaded not guilty to one charge of gross sexual assault of a child under 12 and two counts each of unlawful sexual contact with a child under 12, and visual sexual aggression against a child under 12, which allegedly occurred between Dec. 1, 2014, and March 31, 2015, in Oakland.

However, just before the start of her trial at the Capital Judicial Center and out of the jurors’ hearing, she pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of endangering the welfare of a child under 16, both occurring within the same time period in Oakland.

Justice Robert Mullen accepted her pleas and continued that case for sentencing.

In the opening statements at the trial on the remaining counts, both the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh, and the defense attorney, Sherry Tash, told the 14-member jury panel that the case would be a disturbing one to hear because of the graphic nature of the alleged sexual acts.

Tash urged jurors to look at credibility of the witnesses, saying that Smith was the one controlling the situation.

“Look at it piece by piece; when you do so, you’ll find her not guilty,” Tash said.

Smith, who is serving the initial 18-year unsuspended portion of a 30-year prison term for sexual assaults on the same children, testified that Conway participated in the sexual acts.

Wearing a long-sleeved teal blue dress shirt over jeans, Smith entered the courtroom through the door reserved for those in custody.

He testified the couple connected through an internet site and had their first in-person meeting in his apartment.

“We met, we talked, we had sex,” Smith said. He said they stayed up talking the whole night.

“I told her I had a fetish,” he said. “I basically explained to her about being attracted to children.”

He said he like to watch child pornography, but Conway told him she didn’t like it.

When Tash asked him why he described events differently on the stand than he had earlier in police interviews, he told her, “Like I said, bad memory.”

Smith said he would slap Conway some of the time while they were engaged in “slave and master” sex acts.

He also testified that he once gave her a black eye.

Smith also testified he did not originally tell police that Conway was involved in sexual contact with the girl, who was 6 at the time.

“I originally didn’t say anything (about Sarah being involved) because I still cared for her and didn’t want her getting involved,” he said.

While Conway did not take the stand Tuesday, jurors heard her voice when the prosecutor played recordings of two interviews of Conway done by Sgt. Ryan Porter of the Canaan, New Hampshire, Police Department.

The investigation began when Conway went to that department in September 2015 to tell police about Smith’s sexual activity involving the children in Maine.

Both Smith and Conway were arrested and charged a month later.

She said she went along with the abuse because she was pressured. “I felt like I had no choice,” she said on the recording that was played through the courtroom’s speakers.

She said Smith told her, “Children were put here for adult pleasure,” but she disagreed.

She also said Smith threatened her to keep her from going to police. “He said he would say whatever he had to say to make me look bad.”

On the recording, she said she felt she had to go to authorities because she was pregnant with Smith’s child and he said he wanted to abuse the baby.

She told Porter on the tape that she regretted what she had done.

“I may not have made the best choices, out of fear,” she said. “This was not anything that I chose, not anything I wanted to happen.”

At Smith’s sentencing hearing in August 2016, the children’s grandmother wrote a letter to the judge, which was read aloud by a prosecutor.

The grandmother said, “The things (the girl) knows are not things a 6-year-old should ever know.” The grandmother also said both the girl and boy, who was about 3 when the abuse occurred, are attending weekly counseling, which was helping them, but it was likely they would need it for the rest of their lives. She also said they had to monitor the children’s behavior and interactions with others constantly, telling them when it was appropriate to hug someone and when it was not.

Conway’s trial is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday, weather permitting.

In the meantime, Conway remains free on bail.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: @betadams

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