Tuesday, December 22, 2009
CA - Newly released videotape raises new doubts on decade-old Santa Clara County sex abuse conviction
Withholding evidence is "Obstruction of justice ," and is a crime, so all those involved, IMO, should be brought up on charges, and put into jail and/or prison. Just goes to show you "Anything for a conviction!"
By Tracey Kaplan
The case against _____ was thin from the start. His nephew had told authorities, after prodding, that _____ molested him; but the boy soon recanted. A county physician assistant said the child bore marks of sexual abuse, but her report was far from conclusive.
Nevertheless, a jury convicted him. And _____'s continuing insistence that he was innocent, backed by strong evidence that his court-appointed attorney failed to mount an adequate defense, failed to impress a series of judges during his seven years in custody.
But now, new evidence has been discovered that supports what _____ claimed from the start: There never was any abuse.
That evidence came through the review of a videotape of the boy's 1998 physical exam, a tape that was only turned over to defense attorneys 11 years after _____'s trial — and only recently reviewed by an expert.
The conclusion of Dr. James Crawford of Oakland Children's Hospital is laid out in a new motion by _____'s attorneys to overturn the conviction.
The case serves as a cautionary tale of how criminal trials can be tainted by the combination of poor lawyering, prosecutorial misconduct and poor judicial oversight.
And it deepens the ongoing concerns about whether other child sex abuse convictions in Santa Clara County may have been built upon questionable evidence of abuse. Prosecutors and officials at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where the physical exams of alleged victims were done, are working through a trove of videotapes of those exams that were recorded, but never provided to defense attorneys.
A year after the discovery of thousands of tapes of exams dating back to 1991, an official in the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office said recently that prosecutors have so far identified 245 tapes they could link to cases that ended in convictions. Prosecutors still have another 243 cases that they are researching to determine if they ended in convictions or not.
Of the cases that officials found resulted in guilty verdicts, 134 tapes — including that of the examination in _____'s case — have so far been provided to defense attorneys, and another 91 tapes are in the process of being turned over.
The videotapes, which were kept by the physician assistant at VMC, exploded into public view last December after two convicted defendants learned that tapes existed in their cases but had not been turned over before trial. Medical review of the tapes in those cases both raised doubts about their guilt, leading to the convictions being overturned.
Crawford, who helped write the protocols used in California for forensic sex-abuse examinations, goes beyond offering a conflicting opinion in his report in _____'s case of the child's physical examination. Instead, he flatly disputes the medical findings cited as evidence of sodomy.
_____'s current appellate lawyer, Dallas Sacher, is hoping Crawford's analysis of the newly discovered videotape will prove compelling enough for the courts to take the rare step of reconsidering his case — and the perhaps even rarer step of finding _____ factually innocent.
Prosecutors said they have not received a copy of the brief and cannot comment on a pending motion.
_____ is now off parole. He will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life unless his conviction is overturned.
In his effort to prove his innocence, _____ took and passed a lie detector test in 1999.
The case stemmed from events that took place when _____'s 4-year-old nephew stayed at his grandmother's home, where _____, who had past convictions for burglary and grand theft but not for any sex crimes, also lived. After the boy returned home, his father was concerned about redness on his rear, and urged the boy's older brother to question him about what had occurred. After repeated questions, the boy said _____ had sexually abused him.
_____ was arrested and held at Elmwood Jail. Even before trial, he was complaining that his attorney, Thomas Dettmer, had not come to see him.
Despite the complaints, the case proceeded to trial in November, 1998. By then, the boy had taken back his accusation, and testified at trial that no abuse occurred. But the jury heard the boy's initial, contradictory statement to police, as well as the testimony of Mary Ritter, physician assistant with VMC's Sexual Assault Response Team, that her physical examination turned up evidence of a "fissure" in the boy's anus that she called "consistent" with a prior penetrating trauma.
The jury convicted _____, after which a new lawyer sought to upend the conviction by challenging Dettmer's representation. She produced jail logs to show Dettmer never visited his client in jail. She also challenged his failure to find an expert to dispute Ritter's medical conclusion. The trial judge, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Emerson, rejected _____'s motion and sentenced him to eight years in state prison.
_____ renewed his challenge to Dettmer's representation on appeal; his appellate lawyer said that Dettmer explained he never consulted any expert to challenge Ritter's testimony because he concluded that any expert's testimony would be the same as Ritter's. On appeal, the Sixth District Court of Appeal again rejected the contention that _____'s conviction was flawed.
_____ served his term and was paroled in 2005. He had since been back in custody after being picked up on parole violations. But now, the newly discovered videotape has resurrected questions about the conviction.
For one thing, Crawford, of Children's Hospital, expressed skepticism about Ritter's conclusion that the fissure discovered in the medical examination could have been caused by an act of sodomy nine days earlier, when the boy was at the house with _____. He said such an injury would likely have healed by the time of the exam. He also said that most anal fissures are caused by factors such as constipation and diarrhea, rather than sex abuse, and did not note evidence beyond the fissure that suggested any abuse.
Appellate lawyer Sacher has turned to Santa Clara County Superior Court, asking that _____'s conviction be overturned based both on the questions about the medical evidence and on questions about the reliability of the boy's initial accusation. Forensic psychologist Dr. Brian Abbott states in the new appeal that he believed the accusation may be the result of faulty, leading questioning first by the boy's brother and then by police.
"Mr. _____ is an innocent man,'' said appellate attorney Sacher — an assertion, he said, that he has rarely made in 24 years of defense work.
RACINE - Former Racine Mayor Gary Becker has pleaded guilty to two charges stemming from an Internet sex sting.
In exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss six other charges during Tuesday's hearing.
The 52-year-old Becker pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault of a child under 16 and child enticement. He faces up to 45 years in prison when he's sentenced March 3.
Defense attorney Patrick Cafferty declined comment until after Becker's sentencing hearing.
Becker was arrested at a shopping center on Jan. 13 in a sting operation after authorities said he was involved in explicit Internet chats with a state agent posing as a 14-year-old girl.
Becker was charged Jan. 15 and resigned as mayor five days later.
NV - Judge's Son Sentenced To Year in Jail In Sex Case (Gets a slap on the wrist, while others, for lesser crimes, get more prison time!)
FALLON - A harsh sentence was given Tuesday in the case of a Fallon man charged with having sex with an under aged teenaged girl during an out of control high school party nearly two years ago.
Twenty-year-old Jeffrey Lister will spend up to a year in Churchill County jail after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit and indecent or immoral act with a minor. Lister also has to pay a $2,000 fine. Lister and Tami Peel, the former high school softball coach who hosted the party, will have to jointly pay $4,000 in restitution to the victim.
Lister, the son of Fallon Municipal Judge Michael Lister, originally faced a gross misdemeanor sexual assault charges. Despite the plea bargain, visiting Judge William Rodger went against the recommendation of parole and probation for a 30 day sentence plus probation.
Judge Williams told a stunned Lister that he was lucky that he only got a year and that "there are people serving life terms in Ely (state prison) for less than what you did."
- Yep, continuing to protect the "Good Ole' Boys!"
The victim’s mother said she was shocked by the sentence, but grateful that a judge finally took the incident seriously. However, she noted that it is unfortunate that Lister is the only one so far facing punishment. There has been no decision on the prosecution of the other four boys alleged to have taken part in the rape.
Tami Peel has already served her jail time for her participation. She is currently on supervised probation and cannot drink alcohol.
By TIM CHITWOOD
The folks who run Georgia prisons are going to form a "Sex Offender Apprehension Team" to track down probation violators and catch those committing new crimes.
That's what the state Department of Corrections, which with 14,000 employees is Georgia's largest law enforcement agency, plans to do with a $500,000 grant it just got from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
Called COPS grants, a total of $11.4 million was distributed to fight child endangerment through initiatives coordinated by state and local agencies and their U.S. attorneys or U.S. Marshals.
The Sex Offender Apprehension Team will consist of five probation officers and an intelligence analyst. and will work with the U.S. Marshal Service Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force to hunt down wanted sex offenders.
By CLARKE CANFIELD
PORTLAND (AP) — Maine’s highest court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that a 1999 law requiring certain sex offenders to be placed on a sex offender registry for life cannot be applied retroactively.
In its ruling, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court gave the Legislature until March 31 to revise the law.
The case was brought by _____, a Dixfield man who was 19 when he was convicted of rape in 1996 for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. At the time, he was required to register as a sex offender for 15 years, but was also allowed to seek a waiver from the registry after five years.
Under changes to the law in 1999, he was required to register as a sex offender every 90 days for the rest of his life. The updated law also took away his right to ask for a waiver.
In its ruling, the court said it was unconstitutional to apply those changes retroactively.
David Sanders, _____’s attorney, said the ruling was a victory for his client. He contends his client and others among the 3,000 people on the registry are not at risk of repeating their sex offenses.
“If this was truly administrative, wanting to protect society from individuals, then you have to find that the individual in question who’s going to be ostracized, who’s going to be humiliated, who’s going to be shamed, is in fact a risk to society. A mere conviction doesn’t prove that,” he said.
Attorney General Janet Mills (Contact) said the justices did away with the more punitive aspects of law as they are applied retroactively while affirming the state’s interest in having an Internet sex offender registry.
It’s now up to the Legislature to make the changes the court is seeking, she said.
“We’re comfortable the court has given us guidance,” she said.
Sanders said his client did his time and had counseling. He’s now 35, is married, and has a daughter and stepchildren.
“He just wants to get on with his life and that ought to be allowed,” Sanders said.
The sex offender registry has gone through a number of changes since it was created in 1992.
It attracted national attention in 2006 when a 20-year-old Canadian man killed two sex offenders in Maine after randomly getting their names from the state’s online registry.
Last year, lawmakers allowed some registered sex offenders to be removed from the registry, upon their request, provided they complete their sentences, commit no additional crimes and meet other standards. In November, the state announced that 100 names of people convicted of offenses that happened between 1982 and 1992 had been removed from the list.