Hung Jury in Guzman Trial

by Makisha Singh

On the afternoon of February 9, 2015, the jury in the child molestation case against Manual Guzman came to a verdict on only one of the charges, Count 2.  The jury acquitted on that charge.  Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin told the jury that charges 2 through 5 were related to numerous allegations of touching – touching the alleged victim’s buttocks, breasts and vagina, and the alleged victim touching Guzman’s penis.  They could decide on any number of the incidents, but they had to agree on which incident they were finding him guilty.

The predominantly white and male jury found Guzman not guilty of the count that included a main charge of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor under the age of 14, as well as finding him not guilty of the lesser included charges that included battery and assault.

Judge Rosenberg declared a mistrial on Counts 1, 3, 4, and 5.  Count 1 was the most serious charge as it was the allegation of sexual intercourse on September 27, 2013, with the alleged victim in the downstairs living room.

Guzman will now be represented by a public defender due to insufficient funds to retain private counsel. The DA will retry this case and the trial setting conference is set for Wednesday, February 18, 2015, at 8:30 AM in Department 4.

Previous article by David Greenwald:

Prosecution and Defense Clash on Reliability of Victim’s Account as Trial Wraps Up

Both the defense and prosecution agreed on Friday that the case against Manuel Guzman was that he was accused of five counts of sexual abuse against his girlfriend’s daughter (he shared a younger child with his girlfriend), culminating with alleged sexual intercourse with the then-11-year-old on September 27, 2013. The prosecution, however, argued that the girl’s accounts were relatively consistent and were backed by both nearly 900 emails, as well as a pretext phone call.

“He stole her childhood, he stole her innocence,” Deputy District Attorney Michelle Serafin told the jury during her closing argument. Instead of guiding her, “he sexualized her when she was 11 years old.”

Defense attorney Steven Sabbadini who, along with David Dratman, represented Mr. Guzman, countered, “It didn’t happen. It’s not believable,” referring to some of the alleged victim’s accounts. Instead, he would tell jurors this was a vindictive lie concocted by the girl’s mother in a custody battle with Mr. Guzman.

Mr. Guzman faces five counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a victim under 14 years of age. The main charge, which comes with an enhancement for a significant sexual act, is that Mr. Guzman had sexual intercourse with the 11-year-old in the living room of the family home late at night on September 27, 2013. The other four charges stem from his repeated advances that included touching her breast, buttocks and vagina, and placing her hand on his penis, what the Ms. Serafin called “grooming” the alleged victim prior to the main act.

Due to the length of the trial – which ran nearly two weeks, much longer than originally anticipated – Judge David Rosenberg limited both sides to 45 minutes total in closing arguments. This caused both sides not to go into the type of detail they might otherwise go into.

Ms. Serafin argued that the details of the girl’s account had remarkable reliability. For instance, she testified that it felt weird to have her hand on his penis, noting the hair. She also referred to a watery substance.

Ms. Serafin would argue to the jury this is a strong indication of the truth of her testimony, since these types of details would not be readily available to such a young and innocent girl unless she had experienced it.

“The reason she can explain that to you… is because it happened,” she said.

She noted that after the incident on September 27, the girl went back to bed after the sexual encounter but would take off her clothes. The DDA speculated – to the objection of the defense – that she did this because she felt dirty. Ms. Serafin again argued this was a very realistic reaction to such an incident.

Ms. Serafin acknowledged that the pretext phone call at first did not sound bad, but under further review it was very incriminating. She argued that Mr. Guzman seemed suspicious from the start.

When the young girl approached Mr. Guzman regarding that she might be pregnant, his response was, “From who?” and that “you have to have sex to get pregnant.” He would also ask, “Do you know what sex is?”

Ms. Serafin argued that this was due to the fact that he knew that he either never fully penetrated her or ejaculated. She argued that he never denied the act, which makes it “an adoptive admission.”

The DDA said that alleged victim then threatened that if Guzman did not help her, she would tell her mother. His response was that he would help her, that “we’re stuck,” that you “have to help me too” and “what do you want them to do, put me in jail?”

Ms Serafin said that only at the end did he deny having sex with the girl.

Ms. Serafin also hammered on the 898 emails that were exchanged in two weeks between Mr. Guzman and the girl. She argued, “They don’t have a father-daughter innocent relationship and it shows.”

The girl refers to a highly sexual dream about being in bed with him. He responded, “Wow, you’re having wild dreams.”

He sent photos to her, lying in bed with his shirt off and another with a tank top where he is flexing his muscles (he is a large man with very large arm muscles).

He also repeatedly told her to erase the emails. Ms. Serafin argued that this is because he saw them as incriminating.

Steven Sabbadini told the jury that it is impossible to prove a negative and prove that something did not happen when there is no evidence that it did. Ms. Serafin relied on the alleged victim as a truth teller, however, Mr. Sabbadini attempted to cast doubt on that and used the testimony of clinical psychologist William O’Donohue, an expert witness, to help do so.

Mr. Sabbadini argued that this was really just a custody battle. He argued that people often lie in custody cases, as the mother was desperate to keep custody of the youngest child, which she shared with Guzman. He argued that a high percentage of sexual abuse charges that arise in custody cases are found to be false.

After creating the motive for the young girl to fabricate the charges, he argued that the examples of the sex acts are “impossible to believe.” There are several different components to this argument.

First, he argued there is a logistical problem with the girl’s description of how the sex act occurred. Second, he argued and detailed several instances where there were inconsistencies of her accounts given to police, being interviewed at the MDIC (Multi-disciplinary Interview Center), and then testifying at the trial.

He argued that the sexual positioning she described is “impossible to perform,” and that act “makes no sense.” To the latter, he argued that “she keeps modifying the story” and “she can’t keep her story straight.” He said, after presenting his version of the evidence, “The evidence says she making it up as she goes… it morphs so much.”

Mr. Sabbadini argued, for instance, details about penetration where first the girl said she had sex with Guzman and then she said he penetrated a little. He noted that she is an 11-year-old and he is a large man whose ex-wife apparently testified that he had a very large penis. Yet the alleged victim testified that when they had sex, it didn’t hurt much and she barely felt it.

But more damaging, perhaps, to the prosecution’s case is the fact that the mother refused to take her to the doctor to have a sexual assault examination done for her. He speculated that this was due to the fact that the mother knew the event never happened. But, as a result, there is no physical evidence in this case.

Finally, he noted another implausibility, that many of these actions occurred in a relatively small 1000-square-foot home. The girl was never home alone with him and, therefore, the mother and brothers were always home at the same time.

Dr. O’Donohue testified that we would not expect the core details of her story to change – the doctor would testify “that she’s all over the board” and that this inconsistency is indicative of a “false report of sexual assault.”

The doctor noted it was highly unusual for the victim in a sexual assault case to want to go live with her abuser and to initiate email contact.

Mr. Sabbadini next attacked the pretext call, noting that she was laughing as though she enjoyed the call. He argued that she was very demanding and very assertive with him, which he said the doctor testified was not normal behavior for one abused.

Mr. Sabbadini noted that when the emails were sent there was no restraining order. He noted that Mr. Guzman never requested pictures, never asked when can we meet, never initiated the sexual conversation.

“He’s using her,” the attorney argued, but using her to find out what was happening with her mom and his son, at a time when the mom had totally cut off contact with him.

Mr. Sabbadini said the DDA is speculating in its interpretation of some of the emails. He argued we have no way of knowing some of the meaning of seemingly damaging emails. “It is not definitive,” he argued.

Finally, he challenged the prosecution and investigators. He argued that the investigators did not ask questions that would test the credibility of the girl’s accounts. He complained that they failed to challenge inconsistencies and failed to get DNA or other physical evidence.

He argued that, if they had, Guzman would not be here. “They did not do their job, it’s not excusable,” he said as he concluded.

DDA Serafin, in the prosecution’s final closing argument, had 15 minutes left. She began by attacking the testimony of Dr. O’Donohue. She argued that he acknowledged that most sexual abuse claims are true, and only two to 10 percent have been shown to be false.

She argued that he was paid by the defense a remarkable $8000 fee – which she said was “bought and paid” for by the defense. He was paid, she said, to muddy the waters. He never met with or interviewed the alleged victim.

She tried to argue he wasn’t even in the courtroom for her testimony, but the defense objected that experts, along with other witnesses, are precluded from sitting in on other evidence.

She argued he has nothing to offer them, as he can’t speak to the allegations directly.

She argued both the email and pretext calls were very clear. She argued that the jury is allowed to draw inferences and use common sense. She highlighted three key things, “Yeah it was great but it could have been better, you will see one day.” Also, “The last night we…” and finally, “It was amazing the last night.”

These, she argued, were clear and unequivocal.

Ms. Serafin cited her own expert, Maria Flores from the MDIC, who said that the girl was not pressured by her mother to testify and showed no signs of coercion.

Ms. Serafin told the jury to consider the issue of custody for the timing, rather than the truth, of the allegation.

The closing arguments wrapped up just before noon. The jury left on Friday without reaching a decision and will return on Monday, February 9, 2015, to continue deliberation.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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31 Comments

  1. sisterhood

    “Ms. Serafin argued that this was due to the fact that he knew that he either never fully penetrated her or ejaculated. She argues that he never denies the act which makes it “an adoptive admission.”

    Strange leap for Ms. S. to take.  Seems to be enough reasonable doubt here. But just the accusation alone might be enough to convict, depending on the jury. Hope the juror that was dozing off heard all the info or read back the script from the trial during the time they were dozing or sleeping.

    I wasn’t at the trial and did not hear everything. But reading what I read, I’d have to acquit. And I have a young daughter and I do not take lightly any kind of sexual or physical assault.  It’s repugnant. They just don’t have a strong enough case, beyond a reasonable doubt, and the pretext call, attempting to frame the man, makes me extremely uncomfortable. If they had enough evidence, they would not need to do that.

    So, if one does not deny doing something, that makes one guilty? Wow. That’s the best she has?

    1. David Greenwald

      I’ll be interested to see what the jury rules. I only personally listened to the closing arguments. I did read the intern accounts. While I agree with you that the prosecution made a number of leaps during her argument – I wonder how much of that was due to time constraints. However, at some point you have to discount both the emails and the pretext phone calls and while there is not a ton there, you do have a grown man sending seminude photos to an 11 year old, plus I don’t think you can explain away a part of the pretext call. The defense argues that he’s using her for information, but gosh she’s talking about a highly sexual dream she had of him. I don’t know where the proof beyond a reasonable doubt level comes in – I guess it depends on whether you consider the girl’s account through 11 and 13 year old filters believable.

      1. sisterhood

        “ “He stole her children, he stole her innocence,” Deputy District Attorney …” ”

        Did Ms. Singh mean to say he stole her childhood? Or was she referring to Mr. Guzman stealing the mom’s children?

  2. sisterhood

    I guess you & I can agree to disagree about the ethics of law enforcement feeding citizens questions to do a pretext call. As stated earlier, I believe this law enforcement technique should only be used if there is a child abduction,  or child murderer on the loose.

    Seems like framing to me. Law enforcement has an extremely weak case, and they know it, if they use that technique to convince the jury. It would backfire on them if I was a juror…

    “I wonder how much of that was due to time constraints..”

    Odd that there are time constraints when a man’s entire future is at stake. If he is guilty, of course the behavior is abhorrent and he should be locked away somewhere. If he’s innocent, and this is just a really ugly custody battle, then a few extra minutes to save his life don’t seem like that much.

    1. David Greenwald

      I didn’t weigh in on the ethics of the pretext phone call, I weighed in on the substance of it and its impact on the jury.

      “Odd that there are time constraints when a man’s entire future is at stake. If he is guilty, of course the behavior is abhorrent and he should be locked away somewhere. If he’s innocent, and this is just a really ugly custody battle, then a few extra minutes to save his life don’t seem like that much.”

      If anything, in this case, it probably helped him. First, the DA had to limit their comments much more than the defense. Second, the DA had equal time, whereas normally the DA has as long as it wants to have a rebuttal closing comment.

  3. sisterhood

    Sorry I assumed something there. I apologize.

    I guess, as a mom, this is the clincher for me:

    “But more damaging perhaps to the prosecution’s case is the fact that the mother refused to take her to the doctor to have a sexual assault examination done her. He speculates, this is due to the fact that the mother knew this never happened. But as a result there is no physical evidence in this case.”

    The mom’s behavior makes no sense whatsoever. Why would you allow your young daughter to be around a man, alone in your own home, when another woman told you that same man assaulted her daughter? Why, when told by your very young daughter, that a man raped her, would you not take your daughter to the doctor, if for no other reason than to make sure she was not exposed to a venereal disease or H.I.V. Why did she choose to not take her daughter to a doctor?

    1. David Greenwald

      And you have the same problem that you had in the Ajay Dev case where these incidents took place in a house full of people and this was a pretty small house.

      1. sisterhood

        Others were in the home when the alleged assault took place. Wow. And no one her a very young girl struggling. In a pretty small house. (Didn’t mean to suggest a person always struggles when she is attacked.)
        Has the girl ever been examined by a doctor, even to this day? How do they know she is not carrying a sexually transmitted disease, and, God forbid, she is not HIV positive, since the man did not wear a condom during the alleged assault?

        1. David Greenwald

          Remember it’s not being charged as a sexual assault. Is being charged as rude and lascivious conduct. On a person under the age of 14. There is no testimony or indication that she struggled or said no. She’s not old enough to consent but it’s not being charged as a rape.

  4. Tia Will

    sisterhood

    And no one her a very young girl struggling. In a pretty small house.”

    This makes the assumption that she was struggling. Which rests on another assumption, that she perceived what was happening as an attack. It is entirely possible that a girl this young might have ambiguous or at the very least, confused, ideas and feelings about what was happening. Most young girls get the message that they are to do as told by their elders. Many young girls also get the message that this is especially true if the  elder is a male.

    I do not think that we have enough information about the way this girl was raised to make any assumptions at all about whether or not she would have struggled, or seen it as her duty to do as told, or found some, but not all of the attention gratifying and not unwelcome and seen this as just an extension of desired attention. There are many ways of interpreting behavior and I think it is a leap to assume that we understand what the motivations may have been here.

    1. hpierce

      “Most young girls get the message that they are to do as told by their elders. Many young girls also get the message that this is especially true if the elder is a male.”  As you made clear in another post/thread you state this as an opinion, not a fact.  I opine that as it relates to ‘elders’, I’d say boys are similarly getting the same messages.  I opine that “many” is undefined (and I therefore do not dispute), but I opine that for most kids, the ‘elder’ message is not stressed as gender-based, and I know (i.e. FACT) that the gender-based message in my original and current families was very seldom given, if at all. [except when the opposite-gender child confronted the parent — ex., if son “mouths off” to Mom, Mom asks/tells Dad to support her.]

      1. Davis Progressive

        it really depends on the individual.  some kids know that the conduct is wrong and will resist.  others will go along to please the parental figure.  in this case, the defense implies there may have been a crush, certainly if she’s seeking him out that may be a role as well.

  5. sisterhood

    Tia, I agree with you and that’s why I wrote the next sentence after that one.

    Also, still wonder if she has ever seen a doctor since it was brought up that the man did not wear a condom, very dangerous behavior. I hope she does not have a sexually transmitted disease.

    1. Miwok

      Would the mother not have the same diseases?

      Apart from this comment I will not say anything further. The situation was created by the mother, and she should be held responsible as well for this happening. I have seen too many of these situations in life to care about one more.

      They are locked together forever, and neither has the brains to stay away or handle it like adults.

  6. Davis Progressive

    for me the comments listed by the prosecution by themselves are incomplete but you have a full picture – the claims by the girl, the fact that she’s young and therefore her story may vary, you have the emails – the shear number are alarming as are some of the topics of conversation, and then the strange response by the defendant, i think while it’s a close call, i side with the prosecution in this one.  i believe something happened.  but you have to look at the totality of the circumstances rather than piece by piece – it’s definitely a circumstantial case but the pieces add up for me.

      1. tj

        Sorry guys  –

        I worked in Child Protection for many years and this girl’s behavior is not that of a molested child.  Far from it.

        Then there’s the small house with many people, the girl laughing on the phone, the mother’s motivations, and especially the fact that Gill the investigator did not record his contact with the girl.

        Nobody should be convicted and imprisoned on the basis of what was presented in this trial.

        It’s interesting that when the DA’s office was presented with a black and white case of white collar crime, the DA wasn’t interested at all; a well known business man with expensive attorneys at his beck and call can do what he wants.   But if you’re a lower income Latino, the DA is all over it no matter how thin the evidence.

        1. Davis Progressive

          why do you assume the guy is low income, he has the resources to hire two private attorneys – sabbadini and dratman.  very good attorneys who are not cheap.  and he paid atleast $8000 for an expert witness.

          1. David Greenwald

            My intern reported at 1:30 pm today that the jury was called back in after sending a note to Judge Rosenberg. They were having difficulty coming to a verdict and believe they are deadlocked. Judge Rosenberg sent them back to deliberate some more.

  7. David Greenwald

    They found him not-guilty of Count 2 – which would have been one of the touching charges, I’ll try to find out which.  They hung on the other four including count 1 which was the most serious as it had an enhancement.

  8. tj

    Hello D.P.  —

    I made that assumption based on what I’ve read in the last 2 articles.  He doesn’t sound terribly sophisticated, he would have hired a family law attorney to handle custody issues if he were well off financially, the mother lives in a very small house for the size of her family, and the fact that he paid 2 excellent attorneys might well mean that he’s hocked everything he owns and, or, has had help from friends or relatives.   And as you know, $8000 for an expert witness is minimal as these things go; that was probably all he could afford, one way or another.

    1. David Greenwald

      tj – You may be right. Following the verdict today, he had a PD appointed to represent him as he is now exhausted his funds. However, my guess is he spent upwards of $50K on his defense, probably more. Two attorneys for a full two weeks is probably 80 hours times at least $300, which would be $48,000 just for the trial.

  9. sisterhood

    Whole bunch of questions in my head this morning. Is this a case of sexualizing a very young girl at an inappropriate age? Is this a case of, “well, she’s had her period, so I guess its okay if she has a sexual crush on an older man”. Is this a case of, “don’t take her to the OB/GYN for an exam because the she won’t be a virgin any longer”. When I went to the OB/GYN at Planned Parenthood of Orange Co, for the first time, the doctor asked me if I  wanted a certificate that noted that I was a virgin when he examined me. (Yes, that’s how old I am!)  Maybe Tia can tell us about that ancient practice. I was dumbfounded, and actually more embarrassed by his question than by his exam!

    I’m anxious that the young woman in this trial is allowed to be around men that her mom has been warned will take advantage of a very young girl. I’m anxious that the girl has never had a proper medical exam and been counseled about unprotected sex. I’m just anxious, in general, that young girls are getting sexualized at an inappropriately early age.

  10. Tia Will

    sisterhood

    I think that your concerns are all valid. I would like to make a couple of points.

    1. We have no idea whether or not this girl has had the appropriate medical exam. What we have is what the interns have presented. Medical records from an adolescent are tricky as far as HIPPA violations are concerned and just because it hasn’t been posted on the Vanguard does not mean that appropriate testing has not been done and we have no idea how far the prosecution or the defense went in determining what medical care was obtained.

    2. A doctor cannot  tell 100% whether a woman is a “virgin”. One straddle injury is enough to preclude one from making that determination, and there is as much individual variation in the configuration of the vaginal opening as there is of the shape of people’s noses.

    3. Determination of “virginity” has never been about the health of the woman. This is of course to be distinguished from determining if there is trauma consistent with rape. Since STD testing can always be done regardless of the doctor’s impression about “virginity” the woman’s health can be protected without making this determination. The concept of “virginity” is a male power and economic consideration. “Used goods” are not worth as much in marital arrangements. And for those of you who think this is a sexist comment, when have you ever heard of any attempt to determine the virginity or purity of a prospective groom ?

    4. Sadly, sisterhood, this concept of the value of a woman’s virginity is alive and well today. I have been asked a number of times, by parents of varying ethnic groups, if I could make a definitive statement about their daughters “virginity”. My answer has always been the same, “no”. What I can, and will attest to in writing if necessary, is a statement that “findings are consistent with a straddle injury” when this is the case, or that findings are consistent with an intact hymen. Let the reader make what they will of these statements of fact.

    1. tj

      Assuming it is as it looks, that the girl’s mother made her make the allegations, put her through all the legal ramifications of that claim, and put this child in the middle of the parents’ custody battle, the girl is being used and abused by the mother.

      Some serious counseling would be a good thing.

  11. hpierce

    Comment:  Appending comments from a previous thread probably means no one will see this post.  Suggest a X-reference link, rather than repeating comments from the previous thread.

    Question:  Help me on the basics — what does to vote need to be for conviction?  (I assume it’s 12-0)  What is the vote requirement for “acquittal”?  For being “hung”, what is the range of the votes?  Will the court disclose what the actual votes were on each charge?  Will the Vanguard?

    1. David Greenwald

      12-0 to convict or acquit. Any other split hangs it. The court does not disclose the actual votes, sometimes an attorney will tell us what the split was.

  12. hpierce

    Thank you for your clarification.

    I realize the DA needs to know the vote, so as to consider re-filing, if it was ‘close, but no cigar’.  In some ways, for the accused, I believe it would be justice to let the public know if it was a “strong” vote for acquittal (say, 9-3 in favor of acquittal).
    Might help to clear their name if the charges were false.

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