DAYTONA BEACH — Contrary to an accuser’s testimony, text messages and cellphone data, Michael Boland testified Thursday that he “never” coerced an underage girl to have sex with him or harbored three girls who had run away from foster care.
“I want to be the hero, not the villain,” Boland, 69, said was the reason he provided shelter, clothes and phones to a 17-year-old who said she lived with him and had sex with him from age 16.
The jury will begin deliberating Friday on accusations Boland had sex with a minor, took three girls from their group home, bought liquor for a 14-year-old and fled the scene of an accident after hitting a woman with his car.
Boland, of South Daytona, said he was “didn’t know” the two 17-year-olds and 14-year old he picked up in August 2015 near their Polk County group home in the middle of the night were in state custody. And he never asked — “all I cared about was (the 17-year-old).”
He took the runaways to his Ormond Beach residence and then shifted them among several Daytona-area hotels, he said, because his adopted daughter was “not friends” with one of the older girls.
Boland denied outright allegations that he had ongoing sexual contact with the one of the 17-year-olds. “I don’t even remember a time it being just the two of us,” he said, although he saw her “almost daily.”
“I always use the term (the teen) was raised by wolves, so I’d say I was real concerned for her as a person,” Boland said, adding that he taught the girl to drive, paid her mother’s home security deposit and offered to help the girl get started as a beautician.
In one of the motel rooms Boland rented, one of the girls testified, she saw Boland on top of the other girl during the night. “She was moaning and he was making (sex) motions,” she said.
Boland admitted to purchasing “some vodka” despite not being a “big drinker” but denied providing it to the girls. The 14-year-old, however, told investigators that she became “highly intoxicated” on liquor Boland purchased for them and had to be put in a shower to sober up.
Later, the younger girl was “in such fear for her safety” that she left the other girls behind at a Holly Hill motel and ran two blocks to a Dollar General. There, she turned herself in to police.
At yet another motel Boland answered a knock at the door to find a “7-foot” man saying, “I ought to knock you out,” he said.
That man and his wife, James and Susie Cole, had been searching for their missing 18-year-old daughter, whom one of the girls testified they had seen at Boland’s house a few days prior.
“After he threatened to hit me,” Boland said, he shut the door. Rather than calling police, Assistant State Attorney Megan Upchurch noted, he and the two girls exited the room seconds later and got in Boland’s car.
One of the girls stated Boland was in such a rush that she had to leave a cellphone — purchased for her by Boland — behind.
Outside, Boland said, he tried to maneuver his car, which was backed into an end space, past the Coles’ vehicle parked to block him in.
He moved forward and back several times and “snuck right by (Susie Cole),” who previously testified that Boland hit her with such force that she went “flying.”
Boland didn’t stop, he said, because didn’t hit her.
James Cole said he pursued Boland for about 45 minutes before Boland blew through a “T” intersection and wrecked.
Boland never called police, he said, because he was “scared to death.”
One of the girls told an officer at the crash scene that Boland had a sexual relationship with the other girl. Boland was arrested, but released on bail shortly thereafter.
Cole’s daughter, Hailey, was found dead in Boland’s bed 10 months later while he remained out on bail. Authorities ruled her death an overdose.
In her closing statement, lead prosecutor Erica Kane defined Boland’s motives as “control,” “motivation” and “lust.”
The underage girls, who had previously lied to law enforcement about Boland’s actions, did so because he was “coercing them. Michael Boland was still out of custody and that’s important because there was an element of control he still had,” Kane said.
Jane Park, Boland’s attorney, told the jury, “We’re not a morality court,” and said whether or not James Cole’s anger “was justified” was irrelevant.
She also noted the lack of DNA evidence produced by the state to back the claims of sexual intercourse.
A text message produced by the state from Boland to one of the girls two days after her 18th birthday put a punctuation mark on the state’s case: “I want our sex life back!!!!” the text read.
The jury will begin deliberations Friday morning at S. James Foxman Justice Center in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Leah Case.