By Hannah Grayson
The last day of a child molestation trial proceeded on Monday morning in Department 21, presided over by Judge Geraldo Sandoval.
The defendant is said to have watched an 11-year-old girl shower naked on the night of August 25. The girl testified in court that, while showering, she suddenly noticed the bathroom door was open when it had just been closed. She then made eye contact with the defendant in the doorway for what she says was about 20 seconds. The girl screamed and the defendant ran away.
This alleged incident followed a months-long dispute between the defendant and the girl’s family. The defendant had been trying to evict her and her family for a while, only resulting in a restraining order in which the defendant can not be within three yards of the family despite living in the same house.
The day began with an audio recording of the defendant calling 911 on the night of the incident. The defendant said that his tenants, the girl’s parents, are shouting and banging on his door, but he could not do anything in this situation because of the restraining order.
The prosecution began closing arguments by showing pictures of the shower so as to visualize the incident and how it would have happened. She emphasized how long 20 seconds is to stare at someone accidentally. She argued that since the defendant was staring at this naked child for so long, it shows sexual interest. Sexual interest is needed in order to prove molestation.
She also argued that the defendant did know about the restraining order, so lack of this knowledge did not play a part. She said this was proven by the interview with police after the incident, in which he mentioned the restraining order several times.
The prosecution also pointed out what she said to be inconsistencies in his interviews with police. In the interview, he said he never opened the door. He also said he immediately shut the door once he noticed the girl in the shower. She questioned how he could have shut the door if he did not open it.
Deputy Public Defender Lilah Wolf argued the defendant did not willfully violate the order. She used the difficult situation of the defendant’s living situation as evidence: the defendant shares the house with his tenants, and this house only has one bathroom, which everyone has to share.
The defendant was trying to carefully navigate the shared space with the restraining order in place. As the girl claimed, her mother had helped her adjust the shower at first and then left the bathroom. The defendant had heard someone leave the bathroom and, thus, he thought it was vacant.
This does not prove, however, why he thought the bathroom was empty even though the light was on and the water was running. The defense claimed that the tenants often left the lights on and water running without being there and he assumed they had just done it again.
In terms of the length of time of the defendant staring at the girl, Wolf argued that this was a result of shock rather than sexual interest.
Another point of Wolf’s closing argument was the accuracy of the girl’s testimony. It was argued that the girl was heavily influenced by the eviction and restraining order situation going on around her for those months. As a young child, she would want to please her parents and would be easily influenced by her environment.
In her rebuttal, the prosecution went after Wolf for telling the jury what she thought to be the truth. The prosecution argued that this is not rooted in evidence and that Wolf is not in the position to be giving out her own thoughts. The prosecution also denied inaccuracies in the girl’s testimony, as she knew she was responsible for telling the truth.