To outward appearances, Dennis Mischler was a trusted Boy Scout leader, a longtime schoolteacher and the family patriarch who was always helping family members in need, Assistant District Attorney Collin Sims told a jury in 22nd Judicial District Court Judge August Hand's Covington courtroom Tuesday.
But Sims said a witness who was molested by Mischler as a young teenager from 2005 to 2006 will show a different person: one who groomed a poor child with gifts and outings in order to engage in sexual acts with him.
Sims, who glared at the defendant at one point during his opening arguments, said that the witness, now an adult, will tell the jury about being taken to a hotel on U.S. 190 so that he could go swimming.
Mischler, clad in a robe, "was lying in wait in a room waiting to engage in oral sex with a young boy who didn't have anything," Sims said, and then used guilt to pressure him into staying silent, telling the boy he loved him.
Mischler faces two counts of oral sexual battery, one count of molestation of a juvenile and 53 counts of pornography involving juveniles, some of them younger than 13.
"He is the quintessential definition of a wolf in sheep's clothing," Sims said, adding that Mischler preyed on children he was supposed to protect, not violate.
Mischler's defense attorney, Rachel Yazbeck, told the jury that her client was indeed a Scout leader, an educator for 31 years and someone whose family relied on him when they needed money or a place to live — to the point where some took advantage of him.
She said many family members lived with Mischler when he resided in eastern New Orleans and later when he moved to Covington following Hurricane Katrina.
During those years, she said, he suffered many health issues, including spinal and heart surgeries, and people he did not even know had access to his home.
When agents came to his house in Covington in 2014 to search for pornography he is alleged to have bought in 2008, he had no idea why they were there, Yazbeck said, and a 10-year-old boy who was in the home and others interviewed by authorities never disclosed any incidents of abuse.
The case against Mischler stemmed from a joint operation between the Toronto Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who were investigating pornographic materials purchased in the U.S. from a Canadian company called Azov, Sims said in his opening arguments.
When agents came to search his home for the materials, Sims said, Mischler tried to implicate others, something Sims called a mistake because it provided the authorities with more names of people to interview, ultimately uncovering evidence that he had molested a young teenager.
The first witness called was Brian Bome, a Postal Inspection Service agent who was in charge of the operation. He said a database from the Canadian company with information about customers and purchases showed Mischler's name and his address, where Bome said child pornography was mailed in 2008.
Bome testified that investigators were also able to tie internet activity with another source of child pornography to Mischler's computer and to his physical address.
On cross-examination, Yazbeck asked Bome if it's possible for someone to create an email account using someone else's name. He agreed that is possible.
She also questioned how investigators could know that it was Mischler sitting at the computer accessing child pornography. "You haven't sat next to him at the computer," she said.
Testimony in the case continues Wednesday.