DANBURY-- "Do you believe a gay man is more likely to molest children?"
That's one of the key questions that defense attorney Norm Pattis has been asking this week as jury selection began in the Superior Court trial of a former New Fairfield wrestling coach accused of sexually abusing two brothers who were members of his youth wrestling squad more than two years ago.
Gregory Heinzer, 31, a volunteer coach with the New Fairfield Wrestling Club, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of fourth-degree sexual assault and four counts of risk of injury to a minor for his alleged conduct with the boys, who were members of the club.
Heinzer was also head coach of the New Fairfield High School wrestling team, but none of the allegations involve high school athletes.
So far, six people who agreed that there is no link between homosexuality and pedophilia have been seated as jurors. Two alternates remain to be chosen before testimony begins.
But more important than his client's sexual orientation, Pattis told potential jurors, is the defense's contention that the alleged crimes, which involved fondling the two boys while driving them to meets and practices, never happened.
"There was no molestation," he said. "Our contention is the crimes did not occur."
Heinzer was arrested by State Police in April 2010 after the older boy, who was 12 at the time, told his parents about the alleged incidents.
In subsequent interviews with investigators, his 10-year-old brother said he had also been abused by Heinzer, according to court documents.
The defense may call as many as 36 witnesses to refute the allegations, Pattis said.
Assistant State's Attorney Sharmese Hodge said there are 11 people on her witness list. The trial is expected to last two weeks.
During her questioning of possible jurors, Hodge said the defendant's sexual orientation will not be an issue during the trial.
She was more interested in whether potential jurors believed that children would tell the truth on the stand.
"Would you have any trouble with the credibility of kids that age?" she asked.
Judge Robin Pavia has yet to decide whether the prosecution will be allowed to tell the jury about the defendant's previous run-ins with the law, which include convictions for third-degree assault and possession of marijuana in 2001, drunken driving in 2005 and criminal mischief in 2009.
Jury selection will resume on Wednesday, and testimony is scheduled to start on May 22.