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Trial opens for man accused of abusing girl he got as a gift

FILE- In this Aug. 2, 2016, file photo, Lee Donald Kaplan, front in yellow, and Daniel Stoltzfus, back in yellow, are led to a preliminary hearing outside Bucks County Magisterial District in Feasterville, Pa. The mother of six girls Kaplan is accused of assaulting, fathering two children by one, says she knew about the sexual activity but believed it "could be a good thing." Fifty-two-year-old Kaplan is on trial in Bucks County on rape and sexual-assault charges. (AP Photo/Megan Trimble, File)

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) — The mother of six girls a man is accused of assaulting, fathering two children by one of them, says she knew about the sexual activity but believed it “could be a good thing.”

The testimony came as trial opened Wednesday in Bucks County for 52-year-old Lee Donald Kaplan on numerous charges of rape and sexual assault.

Authorities allege the Feasterville man fathered two children with one of the girls, who they allege had been “gifted” to him by her parents because he helped them financially.

Deputy District Attorney Kate Kohler argued in her opening statement Kaplan “brainwashed” the woman and her family, casting himself as a prophet, as he sought “power, manipulation and control.”

“All they knew was life with the defendant as their leader, their preacher, their husband,” she said. “Six children became his victims. Six children became his sex toys.”

Defense attorney Ryan Hyde, however, said Kaplan was married to the oldest daughter in the family’s eyes and the other children loved him. He denied Kaplan had abused the younger girls.

“He was advancing their lives,” Hyde said, arguing the family took advantage of Kaplan’s generosity. “He was running them out of the darkness that was their lives beforehand.”

The mother of the girls, who along with her husband is awaiting sentencing on child endangerment convictions, said she knew about the intimate contact but believed it stemmed from Kaplan’s dreams that were communications from God.

“I could see that it could be a good thing,” she testified. “I always trusted him that whatever goes on is a good thing.”

She later said she had no regrets because “we had a good life.”

She told jurors she thought of Kaplan as an authority figure and discipline in his home was “understood as a way of life.” Kaplan sometimes assigned different names to her, she said, and she and her children would address him as Lee, sir or Lave.

“As we all well know and understand, we’re familiar with him and his ways, and we understand that he’s always motivated to follow the leading of God,” she said. “We understood that … it was the right thing to do or in God’s leading.”

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