SAN FRANCISCO – The only real evidence that defendant Antonio Carter-Bibbs committed a crime of child molestation are the confused statements of the four-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, in a trial that opened in Superior Court here Monday.
As Deputy Public Defender Eric Quandt argued in his more than hour-long opening statement, there is no physical evidence – no injuries, no DNA evidence – and the complaining witness herself was deemed barely competent by Superior Court Judge Brendan Conroy.
The trial Monday morning was halted twice because the four-year-old witness refused to testify. The judge ordered her to testify via closed circuit video over the objections of Mr. Quandt.
Deputy DA Brooke Jenkins did not go into great detail during her 20-minute opening, but noted in her argument that the alleged victim lived in her grandmother’s home in Alameda County, and during her visits to the small apartment in San Francisco, she charged that Mr. Carter-Bibbs stole her innocence.
The grandmother, she said, did not report the incident right away after the girl confided in her. Instead, she waited a few days to see if the victim brought it up again, and then notified both CPS and the police.
Ms. Jenkins acknowledged that the defendant and his girlfriend, both co-defendants, were arrested even though there were no physical injuries found on the girl or various parts of her, including DNA.
She argued that nothing about this means that the victim was not telling the truth, and, while additional details have emerged, the account, she argues, has been consistent.
Mr. Quandt said in his defendant’s relationship with other children, he had “never been accused of anything even close to this.” Mr. Quandt noted that the defendant raised a 14-year-old girl from another relationship and she will testify that he never did anything remotely like what he has accused.
Furthermore, Mr. Quandt argued, there was no opportunity for Mr. Carter-Bibbs to have done anything to the little girl. He works full time, starting early in the morning, at a construction job. On Saturdays he is involved in a work program all day, trying to advance in his career, and on Sundays he cares for his own grandmother, who raised him but is now suffering from dementia.
Mr. Quandt laid out the timeline of events. On January 14, 2019, the girl made the disclosure. And he noted that there is a custody dispute where the grandmother is attempting to get custody of the little girl.
On January 18, Oakland police turned the case over to the San Francisco Police Department, which led to the arrest of Mr. Carter-Bibbs on February 8.
Mr. Quandt pointed out that Mr. Carter-Bibbs did not act like someone with something to hide. He went to the police station voluntarily, waived his Miranda rights, voluntarily gave DNA and submitted to a lie detector test. He said he did so because he did not believe he needed a lawyer.
The police got a warrant to search his phone, looking for evidence of interest in children or child pornography, Mr. Quandt and the DA and police jointly opened his phone and found nothing incriminating on the phone other than an attempt to sell food stamps, which was unrelated to any of three charges.
Mr. Quandt argued that the charges by the little girl are simply not believable. One of the problems noted by the prosecution was how does a four-year-old learn to describe some of the things that she did describe.
Mr. Quandt, however, pointed out that the couple was living in an 11- by 14-square foot single room dwelling with two children in it, and unfortunately the couple had sex while the two children were in the room – and while they tried to be discreet, they were apparently unsuccessful.
Mr. Quandt said he would bring in experts who would be able to talk about issues like transference and contaminated memories from small children. He pointed out that DNA tests were negative and there was no sign of physical injuries, which undermines the believability of the girl’s account.
He also pointed out that originally Mr. Carter-Bibbs was identified as Antonio Carter, which produced a hit for being a registered sex offender with convictions for sexual assaults on a child. This mistaken identity by CPS, Mr. Quandt argued, colored their assessment of this case, and even when they corrected the name and identification, pushed them on the path toward an arrest and charges.
Following the complaining witness’ refusal to testify a second time, Mr. Quandt indicated he would file another motion challenging the competency of the witness. Ms. Jenkins acknowledged that, without the girl as a witness, there would be no way to continue this case.
Both Mr. Quandt and Judge Conroy noted that when questioning the girl previously she had difficulty discerning truth from lies and, as the judge put it, she “waffled on the truth.” He said it was a close call initially as to whether she was competent to testified, and was of greater concern now.
The prosecution argued that she was afraid of testifying, although, at least in open court, she could not articulate whether there was a specific person that she was afraid of. Nevertheless, the judge agreed to allow her to testify via closed-circuit video.
—David M. Greenwald reporting