VANGUARD COURT WATCH: Ganthner Child Molestation Trial

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Yolo-Count-Court-Room-600By Charmayne Schmitz

On Monday, March 25, John Timothy Ganthner’s mother testified that her son Tim had very little experience interacting with or caring for small children. Public Defender Allison Zuvela then called the defendant to the stand.

Tim and Tina, Zane’s grandmother, had been living together for about 5 years. Zane’s mother, Vanessa, was homeless. At the time of the incident, Vanessa and Zane were living at a shelter on Power Inn Road, but Vanessa didn’t stay at the shelter every night with Zane.

Two days before the incident, Vanessa called from the bus stop in Woodland asking if Tina could meet her and take care of Zane for a few days. Tina wasn’t home so Tim rode his bike to get Zane, who was sleeping in a stroller. Tim pushed the bike with one hand and the stroller with the other about 2 miles back to the house.

On August 23, they all rose early and walked to the park. Zane rushed to get on the older kid’s jungle gym and slide. He tried to go down head first and Tim had to turn him around. Then Zane slid down so fast, he “caught air” and landed sideways.

After returning home, Tina was called to work at the Wayfarer Center. Tina snuck out the back door because Zane would cry if he knew she was leaving. After a few minutes, the toddler realized she was gone and started to cry. Tim couldn’t get him to stop. After 15 minutes, Tim tried to call Tina but only got an answering machine. Zane continued to cry. Tim tried to give him food or juice and was rejected. Zane continued to cry. He had never seen Zane cry this long. He tried to call Tina again. Again he got the answering machine. Zane was lying on the floor on his elbows with his butt in the air. He often fell asleep in that position but he continued to cry.

Tim snapped. He kicked Zane one time and Zane moved about 6-8 inches. He kicked Zane two more times but not as hard. Tim felt like he was in shock, realizing he had kicked a child. Zane continued to cry for a few minutes and then went to sleep. The cry was the same as before, not like he was in pain. Tim sat there for about 15 minutes, but didn’t check Zane’s diaper. Then, Tim went in the kitchen, still contemplating what he had done. He saw a brochure about donating clothes. He felt like he needed to give himself a time out. He went out back, leaving the door open in case Zane woke up.

He went to the shed, got some clothes together, asking himself what he had done, how he could have kicked a child. He put the lawn mower away. While in the shed he heard a thump and looked up to see Zane lying at the bottom of the steps. He went to him, picked him up, looked him over and didn’t see any injuries. Tim took Zane in the kitchen. Zane cried a little, then Zane walked into the front room, played a few minutes, laid down and whimpered a little. The cry was like a finicky child who won’t go to sleep. Tim checked his diaper and saw bruising around the anal area. It didn’t look as extensive as the photographs taken later, but Tim was shocked. A few minutes later, Tina finally returned his calls. He told her to come home, but he didn’t tell her that he kicked the child. Zane went to sleep and Tina arrived in about 10 minutes.

Zane didn’t appear to be injured, Tina didn’t react or disturb him, but she wanted another opinion so Tim went up the street to get a neighbor who ran a day care center. In the meantime, Vanessa called and insisted that the baby NOT be taken to the hospital. The neighbor recommended they take Zane to be checked by a doctor. Her husband drove Tina and Zane in his truck. There was no room for Tim so he remained at home. A few hours later, the police arrived at the house to do a search and to interview Tim. He didn’t tell them about the kicks because he was scared. The next day, he was interviewed again at the police station. At that time, a detective accused him of sodomy and Tim admitted that he kicked the child. Tim was taken to the hospital, examined and swabs were done of several areas of his body.

There was further testimony about his background and situation at the time. He had been employed in the construction industry and lost his job in 2008. After almost 3 years, his unemployment had run out. He and Tina were contemplating being on the streets because their landlord had died and they would no longer be able to live rent free. They had no vehicle and were living off food stamps. Their financial situation was affecting their relationship and they were fighting more.

After lunch, Dr. Wicks, a psychiatric expert, was brought in. He has experience assessing a person’s tendency toward sexual molestation. Dr. Wicks spent 8 hours evaluating the defendant. He also interviewed Tim’s mother and Tina. He concluded that Tim was a fairly normal heterosexual whose personality did not fit any of the models for a sexual molester. Child molesters usually like to spend time around children. One revealing element of his testimony was that Tim had run out of money and marijuana. As a long-term pot smoker, going through withdrawal, he may have been more irritable than normal on the day Zane was injured. Deputy District Attorney Gorman asked the doctor if he had read the medical reports. Dr. Wicks said that once he learned there was no DNA evidence, he didn’t see any reason to study them further. The doctor didn’t find any other indicators of a sexual act in the medical records.

Ganthner Child Molestation Trial – Tuesday, Final Testimony and Closing Arguments

By Charmayne Schmitz

Deputy District Attorney Gorman continued to cross-examine the defendant, John Timothy Ganthner, on Tuesday, March 26. Despite Gorman’s attempt to reveal inconsistencies in the defendant’s responses, Ganthner continued to hold his ground. Gorman quickly fired question after question about Ganthner’s demeanor and why he “snapped.” Before Tim could catch his breath, Gorman asked “What did you penetrate the child with?” Tim did not hesitate in responding: “My foot, I didn’t penetrate him with anything.”

Gorman switched to background questions about Tim’s relationship with Tina. The defendant continued to answer consistently with his prior testimony. When asked why he agreed to babysit Zane, Tim responded “If I had a dollar in my pocket, I’d give it to anyone who asked. That’s me.” “So, why did you kick him?” “I can’t answer that.” “Can’t or won’t?” “I would if I could.” Gorman then sat down.

The jury submitted questions for the defendant that could be revealing about their verdict. If not the verdict, the questions could at least tell us how some jurors are looking past what the Deputy District Attorney would like them to consider. They had questions about the child’s living environment, his mother Vanessa and whether the defendant had ever “snapped” before. Again, there were no apparent inconsistencies in the defendant’s responses and after two days he was allowed to leave the witness box.

Stephanie Carpenter, a DNA expert, was called to the stand by Gorman, as a rebuttal witness. She works for the Department of Justice and tested some of the samples from both Ganthner and the child. Gorman used this opportunity to once again present the pictures of the dirty diaper. The DNA results showed nothing out of place. The defendant’s and a female’s DNA were found on the defendant’s samples. Zane’s DNA was on the diaper and there were no foreign types of DNA of any significance.

The jury once again had thought-provoking questions for the witness. One asked if Ms. Carpenter tested for lubricants. The DNA lab only looks at DNA and not what the DNA was found in. They also wanted to know if the DNA was run through the database of all known samples kept by the Department of Justice. The answer was no.

Gorman called a martial arts instructor to the stand and had him demonstrate a kick on an object that made a loud noise. Zuvela only had two questions for him: “Do you know the defendant?” and “Have you ever trained him?” The answer to both was no.

The defendant’s ex-girlfriend, Zane’s grandmother Tina, returned to the witness stand. Gorman tried a line of questioning that suggested Tina was ignoring Tim due to stress and grief. Perhaps Tim was acting out and punishing Tina by attacking Zane. Tina’s return to the stand gave P.D. Zuvela a chance to ask a few telling questions whereby Tina revealed Zane had “poop” as big as a grown man.

Judge Mock read the jury instructions and then the attorneys gave their closing arguments. Gorman began by saying this is not [simply] a child molestation case, it’s a crime of brutal violence. He accused Ganthner of lying by what he omitted in his testimony. The torture charge is proven by the bruises. Ganthner received pleasure from injuring the child. He told the jurors they don’t have to understand the defendant’s mind set to find him guilty. Then Gorman went on to say there was sexual penetration even if it was with a shoe.

Zuvela began the defense closing arguments by reminding the jurors of questions she had asked during jury selection: to promise they would not let bias, sympathy or public opinion sway them.

Sexual penetration is for the purpose of sex. She said that Gorman said all you have to do is prove penetration. That is not the law. Take a look at the padding in the diaper. It’s consistent with being kicked.

Zuvela went on to remind the jury that Tim admitted he wasn’t honest at first but he was cooperative. He got help. He didn’t try to interfere.

There’s no DNA. No semen. He offered to take a lie detector test. Tim told you he was ashamed; not only of hurting Zane but also Tina. He didn’t try to escape. These are not the words and actions of someone who inflicted pain for pleasure.

No one thought the injuries were severe enough to call 911. Zane wasn’t behaving as if in pain.

After a few seconds of silence Zuvela said: “Crying and crying and crying. Makes you want to stomp your feet…and say STOP IT! Stop it, stop it, stop it. There’s a reason why they call it the terrible two’s.” Zuvela reminded the jurors that all parents go through this but as parents they usually know how to deal with it, or at least how not to overreact. Tim didn’t have that experience.

Zuvela asked the jury not to leave their common sense behind. It was a crime of impulse, not an intent to commit sexual abuse, “a perfect storm.”

In the instructions it says if there are two interpretations of the evidence you have to reject the one that points to guilt. A person’s liberty is at stake. Be able to look back and reflect that you did the right thing.

This was not a case of sexual abuse, not a case of sodomy, not a case of torture. Tim didn’t intend to hurt him. Find him not guilty of Counts 1, 2 and 7.

Gorman then stood up to give the People’s rebuttal argument: Tim is the only person who says Zane was crying. Tina thought he was asleep (not in evidence). Tina freaked out (not in evidence) when she saw the injury. Once you believe he’s guilty that’s all you need. It’s not about Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Gorman gave an example of a case he lost recently where he polled the jurors and they said the case had not been proven. He used that message to end his rebuttal by saying the jurors weren’t right. “If you believe he’s guilty, find him guilty.”

UPDATE: The jury reached a verdict late yesterday of guilty on all counts (which include a forcible sex act, a sex act with a child, lewd and lascivious behavior with child under 14 years, child abuse and corporal injury; some charges with enhancements) except torture. He was found not guilty of torture.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

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10 thoughts on “VANGUARD COURT WATCH: Ganthner Child Molestation Trial”

  1. JustSaying

    “Tina thought he was asleep (not in evidence). Tina freaked out (not in evidence) when she saw the injury. Once you believe he’s guilty that’s all you need. It’s not about Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Gorman gave an example of a case he lost recently where he polled the jurors and they said the case had not been proven. He used that message to end his rebuttal by saying the jurors weren’t right. “If you believe he’s not guilty, find him guilty”.”

    What does “not in evidence” mean in quoting Gorman? Was there any reaction when he described “guilt” in this odd way?

  2. highbeam

    JS, i had several questions for Charmayne, one of which was about the final sentence, but then i forgot to ask her about that! Thank you for pointing it out! Please refresh the page, the last sentence has been corrected.

    Regarding the apparent disregard for the Beyond A Reasonable Doubt standard, as well as the defendant’s age (i think he is in his 40’s) and the points that were apparently made in rebuttal but not during the trial…Charmayne will answer when she gets out of school later today.

  3. highbeam

    JS, i have this update for you:
    The defendant is about 45 years old. The comments that were noted as “not in evidence” were indeed only mentioned in rebuttal. There was never any testimony that Tina freaked out or that Tina and Tim argued when the injuries were discovered (Tim had not told her that he had kicked the baby, and Tina’s testimony was apparently that they had not argued for a few weeks).

  4. JustSaying

    Thanks, Highbeam.

    Since there’s no requirement that prosecution or defense are limited to “facts in evidence” during their openings and closings, it’s odd for a reporter to flag things as “not in evidence.”

    Can we assume Charmayne is certifying that all the defense statements referred only to things for which there was testimony since there was no such evaluation of the defense closing?

    It’s curious that the DA could “change” the standard of guilt even with the extreme leeway given to closings without it eventually being corrected/clarified by the judge. Gorman’s example makes no sense.

  5. Iyah

    Actually it is improper to argue facts not in evidence, evidence that has been excluded or mistatements of evidence. Just google California rules for closing arguments.

  6. JustSaying

    Thank you, lyah, for correcting my mistaken comment. I certainly overstated my intended contention (that the attorneys get lots of latitude in the statements, which are not considered “evidence”).

    My point was that it’s unusual for a reporter to claim that one side’s statements are “facts not in evidence” unless the other side argues that point and/or the judge rules so. Whether something can be reasonably inferred from evidence presented (and fairly used) is a call for the judge to make.

    I’m more surprised about the report that the prosecution was allowed to misstate the law so blatantly, partly clarified by highbeam, however.

  7. JustSaying

    Yes, highbeam, this is a sad case all around. Credit goes to Charmayne for having the fortitude to sit through this and report it for the [i]Vanguard[/i].

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