Girl in waterboarding trial says she lied about molestation

Dr. Melvin Morse, 58, and his wife Pauline, 40, are seen in this combination of booking photos released by the Delaware State Police August 9, 2012. REUTERS/Delaware State Police/Handout

By Lacey Johnson GEORGETOWN, Delaware (Reuters) - The stepdaughter of a well-known Delaware doctor accused of waterboarding her as punishment admitted on Tuesday that she had lied under oath about being molested by a family member in 2010. Dr. Melvin Morse, a best-selling author on near-death experiences, faces child endangerment charges. He was arrested in 2012 after the girl, then 11, told authorities that she had been waterboarded on four occasions. During cross-examination, Morse's defense team played a video of the girl telling a counselor how her half-sister, then 16, had recently molested her for a second time. "That was a lie under oath, wasn't it?" asked Morse's attorney, Joe Hurley. "Yes," replied the girl, now 12, who was cross-examined for more than three hours. "The first time it was the truth, but then the second time that she did, it was a lie." The girl said she did not want her half-sister, who was sent to a juvenile detention center for molesting her in 2007, to return to live with the family. When the state's prosecuting attorney, Melanie Withers, asked why the girl had lied about being molested by her half-sister, she replied: "I told them that because Melvin had encouraged me to." She also admitted to telling a therapist that Morse had never really slapped her, but that she had gotten the idea from talking to her half-sister. Earlier on Tuesday, the girl said Morse, 60, had waterboarded her as punishment for vomiting milk. Waterboarding, typically associated with the interrogation of terrorism suspects, in general involves holding a cloth over a person's face and flooding it with water to simulate drowning. Morse told her she could survive without air for "five minutes without brain damage," she said in a video when questioned at a children's advocacy center in August 2012. "I thought, what if he lost track of time or something, and I would die or something," she said. Prosecutor Withers said in opening arguments last week that the abuse included holding the girl face-up under a running kitchen faucet until she was unable to breathe. Hurley said at the start of the trial that Morse was joking when he used the term "waterboarding" to describe what he was doing to the girl. He was trying to wash the girl's hair, an activity she hated, Hurley had said. The girl denied that she disliked having her hair washed. In the video, the girl said Morse also pulled her hair, pushed her against walls, hit her with a broom and suffocated her with his hands and through waterboarding. Hurley has said the girl, the daughter of Morse's now-estranged wife, had a history of lying to adults, including counselors. The girl's mother, Pauline Morse, was also arrested. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in May and agreed to testify against Morse. Morse heads the Institute for the Scientific Study of Consciousness and has appeared on "Oprah" and "Good Morning America." During a recess in the trial, defense attorney Kevin Tray called the girls' testimony "simply not believable." (Editing by Ian Simpson, Scott Malone, Amanda Kwan and Steve Orlofsky)