LONDON - A prosecutor told a British court Friday that veteran TV and music entertainer Rolf Harris got away with brazen sexual assaults on young girls because his fame made him untouchable.
The 84-year-old celebrity is charged with 12 counts of indecent assault on four victims aged 19 or under between 1968 and 1986. Harris denies the charges.
Opening the case against Harris at London's Southwark Crown Court, prosecutor Sasha Wass said the victims "were overawed at meeting Rolf Harris. Mr. Harris was too famous, too powerful and his reputation made him untouchable."
Wass said Harris was a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality who had "a good, talented and kind side" but another side that "gave him the confidence to molest girls knowing that they could not object and, even if they did, nobody would believe them."
Australia-born Harris has been a British broadcasting stalwart for decades, often hosting shows aimed at children. He has also had hits with the novelty songs "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" and "Two Little Boys" and painted an official portrait of Queen Elizabeth II to mark her 80th birthday.
He is one of several veteran entertainers to face sex charges since TV host Jimmy Savile was exposed as a serial child molester after his death in 2011.
Wass said the jury would hear from eight alleged victims who would describe "instances where Mr. Harris touched children and women alike in quite brazen circumstances." She said they would include one victim — the subject of seven of the 12 allegations — whom Harris "groomed like a pet" until she consented to sexual relations.
Wass said the woman, a friend of Harris's daughter, would testify that she became an alcoholic because of her treatment by the entertainer.
The prosecutor said Harris admitted to police that he had had a consensual affair with the woman but said it started when she was an adult. He said the woman later tried to blackmail him, saying she would go to the press unless he paid her 25,000 pounds.
Wass said the witnesses, who did not know one another, would all describe similar behaviour by Harris.
"Would these girls, unknown to each other, make it up?" she said. "Or is the reality they are telling the truth and they are all describing the dark side of Mr. Harris, the Mr. Hyde character that lurks within?"
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