In Department 7 on Wednesday, the trial of People v. Margarito Alvarez reconvened with witness testimonies.
Mr. Alvarez is being charged with eight counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 and one count of a lewd and lascivious act with a child under the age of 14 by force.
The first witness called to the stand by the People was the mother of Mr. Alvarez’s niece, one of the alleged victims. She stated that, in 2011 when many of the alleged acts occurred, her daughter often went to Mr. Alvarez’s apartment to see her aunt and cousins. The defendant was often present for these visits, but the witness said she had always felt good about him being around her daughter.
When asked when she learned of inappropriate behavior occurring between one of her nieces and Mr. Alvarez, the witness stated that her sister called her because the children had said that the defendant touched them. This call occurred after the witness’s sister had called the police, on the same day.
The witness did not learn of anything occurring between her daughter and Mr. Alvarez until more recently, in 2019.
During cross-examination by the defense, the mother of Mr. Alvarez’s niece stated that the defendant’s wife, her other sister, was angry that the police had been called and did not speak to the rest of the family for several years.
The witness also stated that she applied for a U visa, which provides additional protections for victims of crimes, and which was granted in 2012 because of this case. She applied for this visa after a social worker informed her about it when she was taking her daughter to therapy, after she learned of the inappropriate interaction between one of her nieces and the defendant.
After the first witness provided her testimony, the People recalled Officer Jeremy Warren to the stand and played a video of a Multi-Disciplinary Interview, or MDI, collected in 2011 between the defendant’s nine-year-old niece and a female interviewer.
In this video, the niece described an incident that her younger cousin had told her about what happened during a baby shower they both attended with their aunt, Mr. Alvarez’s wife. She told the interviewer that her cousin had ducked down to get something, and the defendant put his hand out and grabbed her “where girls go potty.” The younger niece had not wanted to tell because she didn’t want the defendant and her aunt to fight.
The niece then described several occasions wherein the defendant touched her inappropriately.
The first occasion that the niece described happened when she was eight years old. The niece and the defendant were sitting on the couch in his apartment with her younger cousin when Mr. Alvarez told her cousin to go get something from the kitchen. When the cousin left, the defendant put his hand between her legs, touching her over her shorts. The niece stated that he stopped quickly when her cousin returned and she did not tell her mom, despite feeling upset.
In the interview, the niece stated that she told Mr. Alvarez to “please stop” or she would tell her mom.
A similar occasion occurred when the niece was still eight years old and she and the defendant were again alone on the couch in his apartment, her cousins in a separate room where the niece said Mr. Alvarez had told them to go play their Xbox. She stated that he touched her between the legs over top of her pants. The niece stated that she thinks her cousins saw this happening but did not say anything.
Then, the niece described in the video interview a third scenario which occurred when she was about to turn nine years old. The defendant was sitting on the couch where she described Alvarez touching his pants around the zipper area. The niece stated he told her “come, come” and grabbed her by the arm while unzipping his pants. She stated that she did not see all of his genitalia but did see “part of it.”
In the interview, the niece also described an instance wherein Mr. Alvarez kissed her quickly on the lips and another incident wherein he was tickling her and touched her chest.
She also briefly described a time when she was seven years old and the defendant touched her bottom when giving her a massage.
When she was asked if Mr. Alvarez had ever shown her pictures or videos of naked adults, the niece said no but mentioned finding a video of naked women in the apartment.
Once the video ended, Officer Warren continued his testimony. He stated that he does not remember talking to the nine-year-old niece’s mom in 2011 but said that, at some point, it would have been their duty to speak to her, although he would not necessarily know if another officer took her statement.
Officer Warren stated that he did not know if there was a law requiring parents to be told if their child alleged that they experienced any kind of molestation.
The trial of People v. Alvarez was set to resume in the afternoon with more of the People’s witnesses giving testimony.