By Fabiha Zaman
On Friday afternoon in Department 10, the preliminary hearing for defendant Steven Long came to an end. Officer Morgan Hatcher was the first witness to testify, continuing her testimony from Monday. Criminal Defense Attorney Jennifer Mouzis, representing Long, continued her cross-examination of the witness.
Ms. Mouzis played the body camera footage from the arrest of Long to refresh the witness’s recollection. In the footage, Corporal Gordon Brown is heard giving Officer Hatcher orders to go to Winters Middle School to interview the victims. Ms. Mouzis asked Officer Hatcher what her exact task was when heading over to the school, which Hatcher said was to find out if a crime had occurred and give an admonishment when conducting an infield show-up.
The witness met the victim at the walkway leading up to the school. She added that the victim was with her two friends, but when she pulled the victim aside to conduct the infield show-up test, they came with her. Though she did not ask the two friends to come, she did not stop them when they followed. She also said there was no particular reason she had not separated them, even though they are taught in training to separate witnesses.
From the conversation with the victim, Officer Hatcher remembered that the girl said her friends had not walked with her to school that morning, and that Long had grabbed her backpack. Officer Hatcher
did not produce a formal statement during this interaction with the victim.
After Officer Hatcher was excused, defense counsel called a civilian witness. The witness was a longtime friend of Long’s who was seen in the camera footage telling the officers that she had been in the area with Long since that morning up until the arrest. She said that she was at Winters Middle School that morning to drop off her daughter around 7:30 in the morning.
Ms. Mouzis then showed the witness a photo of the middle school and a black car that the witness identified as her own. On the picture, the witness marked where she parked her car after she dropped her daughter off. After she dropped off her daughter she saw Long, she then drove to the church and stopped at the ramp, which is where she parked as she indicated on the photo.
Once the witness had stopped her car, she talked to Long, asking him what he was doing in the area. According to the witness, Long was trying to wait for their neighbor’s daughter to go to school so he could get his bike. Since the witness knew how to open the lock to the backyard of their neighbor’s house, she decided to drive her car to the back of the house and help Long open the door.
The witness testified that Long went to the front of the house and she went to the back, but they were talking to each other the entire time. She added that she heard absolutely no children during that time or in the area he was standing.
Ms. Mouzis played the body camera footage for the witness again. The witness then added that Long yelled to her that he was being surrounded, and that is why she went to the front of the house to talk to the police officers. According to her, though, the police officers told her to leave and keep going. She heard the police officers making allegations at Long, but said that they were not at all consistent with what she had seen that day.
Deputy District Attorney Jay Linden and Judge Daniel Maguire also asked the witness questions before she was excused. During the questioning, she revealed that they were able to locate Long’s bike and Long had only been out of contact with the witness for less than a minute, or the time it took for Long to walk to the front of the house.
The People then provided their arguments, saying that the victim had positively identified Long in court, and although the victim was not sure of the time the incident occurred, she was quite clear that it had happened. Mr. Linden also added that there is no good reason for why an adult male would grab a young child.
Ms. Mouzis argued that the elements of an attempted kidnapping had not been met because there was no direct or circumstantial evidence that the victim was going to be forcefully taken to a different place. Although it could be considered an offensive touching, or battery and assault, there is also no evidence to prove it was an attempted asportation of anything.
Judge Maguire then delivered his verdict. He went through all the evidence and explained that the standard of proof in preliminary hearings is much lower than that in a jury trial. The standard of proof for a preliminary hearing requires the People to prove that there is a strong suspicion that the defendant committed the crime. Judge Maguire ruled that there was still a strong suspicion that Long had grabbed the victim’s backpack, but he lowered the charges to an attempted felony false imprisonment.
Steven Long’s case has been scheduled for arraignment on March 22 at 8:30 a.m. in Department 10. His bail has been reset to $25,000 for the time being.