Trial Resumes For Man Accused of Improperly Touching Woman at Fair


By Misha Berman and Tiffany Yeh

The trial resumed for Willie Nelson, a man who is accused of improperly “touching” a woman while he was working at the Yolo County Fair in the “Toon Town Train” section.

Judge Maguire called in the 12 jurors and the one alternate juror. They walked in while the two attorneys were standing, facing the exit door and waiting for all of them to take their seats.

Deputy District Attorney Shelby Doyle called her first witness, Yolo County Deputy Sheriff Charles Hoyt, to the witness stand. Ms. Doyle asked Deputy Hoyt if he gathered documents from Mr. Nelson. Deputy Hoyt responded that he collected about three pages of documents from Nelson and that he got them from another officer. Ms. Doyle then asked if the documents were changed from the original form.

“No, the training records were kept in custody and were not altered in any way,” said Hoyt.

Doyle told Judge Maguire that she had “no further questions.” Yolo County Deputy Public Defender Aram Davtyan said he did not have any questions for Hoyt. Judge Maguire then excused Deputy Hoyt.

Ms. Doyle asked Judge Maguire if she could show the documents that she calls “Exhibit 9,” and which are entitled “Declaration,” to the jury. He said yes, and she handed the Exhibit 9 documents to the jury to be passed around, because it was really hard for the jury to see them on the overhead projector.

Doyle then called the second witness, “Mr. H,” the CEO of Brass Rings Amusements, Inc.

“This company has been operating since 1992. In 2015 around the 18th of August we set up rides for the Yolo County Fair, a five-day event that lasted from Wednesday through Sunday,” said Mr. H.

Ms. Doyle asked if they were still there on August 22 of 2015. Mr. H said that “yes, we were still there on August 22, 2015.”

Doyle next asked him how many employees he hires for the Yolo County Fair.

“Yolo County (Fair) has over 100 employees,” replied Mr. H.

Ms. Doyle asked how employees are trained, and “who came up with the training procedures?”

“I developed the training program and there are layers of training. First there is an orientation that talks about hazards. Employees then read a handbook that covers hundreds of topics such as uniform, how to handle dangerous working environment, emergency procedures and then there is 45 minutes of on-site training,” explained Mr. H.

Doyle asked if “free rides are permissible for other employees?”

According to Mr. H. that this is not allowed. Ms. Doyle asked if employees are allowed to help people on rides with their seat belts if they are having trouble.

“Employees are trained to look and check the seat belts but are not allowed to help put seat belts on. They are especially trained not to help put seat belts on kids, it’s the parent’s job to do that,” said Mr. H.

Doyle gave the witness a copy of the form “People’s 7,” and he said it’s a “training sheet” that Mr. Nelson signed. She then asked Mr. H when Mr. Nelson was hired and whether he was the one to hire Nelson. Mr. H responded that Mr. Nelson was given the job in 2015, and he did not hire Mr. Nelson.

Doyle asked Mr. H to tell the court what happened on August 22. According to Mr. H, a customer made a complaint about Mr. Nelson.

“Several supervisors responded to see what the problem was. A girl and a younger child and a man who I assume was the father alleged that Mr. Nelson touched the girl. They were then approached by the sheriff’s department,” Mr. H said.

Mr. H said that the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department “wanted to talk to Mr. Nelson.”

Mr. H then said that when the sheriff’s department went to where Mr. Nelson was stationed, he was not there. Mr. H. said that they finally found him later on at the RV area, which was not considered part of the fair area.

“He was escorted to the carnival so he could speak to the Deputy,” said Mr. H.

Deputy Public Defender Davtyan asked if Mr. H “trains the employees.”

“I don’t train the employees, the manager trains them,” replied Mr. H.

Mr. Davtyan asked if the witness does the interviewing and hiring. Mr. H responded that the managers do all of that.

“Do you ever go to training?” asked Mr. Davtyan.

Mr. H responded that he doesn’t. Davytan then asked if he knew Mr. Nelson well and what was the approximate number of times he had encountered Nelson. Mr. H responded that he did not know Mr. Nelson when he was hired, or even after he was hired.

“I have seen Mr. Nelson 20 times and I do not have his phone number,” declared Mr. H.

Mr. Davtyan asked if the “no touch policy” is written anywhere in the training booklet. Mr. H responded that it isn’t, and how employees find out is through word of mouth instruction from managers. Datyan then asked Mr. H, if he is not there, how can he know for sure that managers follow training rules and tell employees this “no touch policy,” or whether the employees are just thrown a bunch of documents they have to sign. Mr. H responded that he can’t be completely sure, but he trusts that his managers are doing the right thing.

Mr. H also pointed out that the “no touch policy” is in the employee manual.

Mr. H was dismissed from the witness stand, and Mr. Nelson was called to the stand. Mr. Davtyan asked Nelson where he currently lives. Nelson said he currently lives in Springfield, Missouri.

Mr. Davtyan asked what his hours were while working at the Yolo County Fair.

“My shift was 10am-11pm everyday,” replied Mr. Nelson.

Mr. Davtyan asked whether Nelson knows what time the “incident” happened. Mr. Nelson responded that this all happened at 6pm.

“I was pretty tired and hot. I wasn’t allowed to sit down,” said Nelson.

Mr. Nelson then described what happened.

“A girl and a boy got in line and gave me 4 tickets. The woman put her son in the ride. I asked her if she wanted to ride and she said yes,” Mr. Nelson stated.

Nelson then talked about how the woman had issues with her seat belt. She was having difficulties with putting it on and so he asked her if she needed help. According to Mr. Nelson, she said yes by “nodding her head and putting up her hands as a way of saying yes.”

Nelson then said that he assisted her with the seat belt and, while he put his arm out for the upper part of the seat belt he accidentally touched her thigh.

“She slapped my hand away and I quickly apologized and said I was just trying to help her with her seat belt,” Mr. Nelson stated.

Nelson then said that she ran and complained to the woman who accompanied her.

After Mr. Nelson described, from his perspective, what had happened, Judge Maguire said everyone can go to lunch until 2pm. He apologized for inconveniencing everyone, but he needed to discuss some things with the attorneys.

Evidence Wraps Up

By Tiffany Yeh

Judge Maguire presided over the case of People v. Nelson, where defendant Willie Nelson is charged with sexual battery of a female while he was buckling her seat belt at the Toon Town Train ride at the county fair.

Deputy Public Defender Aram Davtyan resumed his questioning of the defendant. Mr. Nelson’s take on the moment in question is that the alleged victim got on the ride, had four tickets, did not have enough tickets but he let the young woman ride with her brother. He put on the buckle of her seat belt, which is when the alleged touching happened.

He recounted that moment as “a mistake,” as he was trying to touch the seat belt, not her. The young woman slapped his hand away, got up, and got very upset. He described her as getting up, talking to an older lady, and then the older lady got mad.

The young woman was upset but was not in tears when he saw her. He described her as “mad” and the older lady with her as “very loud” and “very mad.”

The alleged victim accused him of touching her inappropriately. He apologized and said “it was an accident, ma’am.” The older lady started yelling, cursing, and calling him a liar, calling out,“You’re a liar, a motherf—” and threatening that her husband was going to beat his ass. She told everyone, meaning the people in the crowd, that he was “touching little boys, little girls.”

Defendant Nelson offered to bring the alleged victim and her aunt (the older lady) to his supervisor’s office but they refused. The aunt called for a crowd to beat him up. He was afraid he was going to get beaten up. He described people following and chasing him as he walked quickly away.

Mr. Nelson sought to get away from the crowd because he was scared. He went to the bunkers/RV park, where the manager and some employees of the fair lived. No customers were allowed in that area. He himself also lived in that area.

He stayed outside the trailer and tried to call his head manager but did not have the phone number of the head manager. He contacted his friend to give him the head manager’s number. The friend sent a text to Mr. Nelson with the head manager’s number. Mr. Nelson couldn’t memorize the number, and didn’t know that pressing the phone number from the text would call the person. He only accessed the phone number from his call log. He got to the head manager’s voicemail twice.

Mr. Nelson had not taken time to pack up his stuff in the time before the head manager appeared.

The head manager finally got to the bunks. After Mr. Nelson told the head manager that a young woman had accused him of touching, the head manager grabbed him, punched him in his forehead, and held him down. The officers started coming. One of the officers took him to the office, specifically the interviewing room, where he was interviewed by Detective Hoyt.

Mr. Nelson was read his Miranda rights and hadn’t asked for a lawyer because he wanted to talk to the officer, to give him his side of the story. He described Detective Hoyt telling him before the interview that if you come down to the station and tell the truth, I’ll let you go.

DPD Davtyan asked Mr. Nelson some questions about his education level and skills. Mr. Nelson had not graduated from high school, did not have a GED, was “not at all” good with math, and did not understand what the words “articulate” and “anatomy” meant.

Mr. Nelson was fired from his job after the sexual battery charges. He tried to get his belongings from the carnival afterward by calling them.

Mr. Nelson’s training for his job was questioned on several occasions. Upon asking him whether he read the manual and the policy handbook for the job, he answered that he just scanned through both of them. Later during the morning session, Mr. Nelson said that, hearing part of the court today talk about the handbook, he realized it was not good to leave the ride unattended, and he remembered the court session from Tuesday about the necessity of not leaving the ride unattended. He hadn’t read in the manual or handbook about this necessity not to leave the ride unattended.

Mr. Nelson stated that he was only trained on pressing the on button and the off button for the ride, and looking at the height requirement on the signboard for the ride.

DDA Doyle then asked the defendant questions on cross-examination.

Mr. Nelson had begun running the Toon Town Train at 6pm that day. He had described the weather that day as hot. He was rushing to help each person on the ride, and get the line flowing. He wanted to take a break, sitting on a toolbox or the tracks, between when the people got on the ride and when the ride came back around. Eleven, twelve, and thirteen hour days were normal for him on that job.

DDA Doyle asked about his skills using a cellphone. Mr. Nelson had received his smartphone as a gift from his mother and had only had it for a year prior to the event in question. He did know how to send text messages, use Facebook and the internet on the phone, but had not known to press the phone number in a text message to call someone if needed.

The defendant had not received his managers’ phone numbers. On one of the occasions when he was running late, he only told his manager that he was late when he arrived on the job.

He described his training for the job as “fifteen seconds’ worth” of training. He helps people with their seat belts when they ask him for help with the seat belts. He knew to check peoples’ seat belts before turning on the ride.

During the recorded interview with the detective, he described his hand as “brushing her with the back of his hand,” but during court testimony he said his thumb may have touched her.

He said he was attracted to women 28 years and older, older women, and non-Hispanic women. Upon being asked which area of the zipper of the alleged victim’s jean shorts he touched, he described the lower part of the zipper. DDA Doyle demonstrated the buckling action while asking him questions and then asked him to demonstrate. Upon being asked which hand he touched the alleged victim with, he said his right hand. The buckle was on the alleged victim’s right side.

He described his job at the fair as overwhelming, but he likes it because he likes helping people, seeing kids having fun on the bounce ride and others, and giving free rides to people – because of God and because he feels like he should give back. He described liking California a lot.

Upon being asked if he was ashamed for doing the alleged touching, he said he was “not really ashamed because it was an accident. I do feel sorry that she was hurt.” “It was a mistake. I was just trying to do my job.” Earlier, he described it as an accident, saying, “Absolutely not. It was just an accident.”

He described being afraid he was going to get arrested if he told the officer that he touched the young woman. A big part of his testimony was explaining why he had lied at the beginning of the interview, saying he had touched her stomach, and only telling the truth at the end of the interview. When Detective Hoyt interviewed him, he said he was “scared” and “very nervous” and “didn’t want to go to jail.” The detective yelled at the defendant and Mr. Nelson described the interview as an interrogation.

The alleged victim’s aunt was subpoenaed by accident when Yolo Public Defender’s Office Investigator Sandra Gordon called her, and the aunt had thought she was talking to the prosecution side. Investigator Gordon had fully identified herself during the first phone call to the aunt. Five or six exchanges had occurred between the two people. The only thing (regarding a personal question) about the alleged victim that was discussed had resulted in the aunt saying something like, “I don’t know, you should talk to my niece.” No exchanges between the alleged victim and the investigator seemed to have occurred. The alleged victim also showed up as one of the defense’s witnesses by accident.

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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