By Pavan Potti
WOODLAND – A jury kept intact for five months—separated for most of that because of the coronavirus pandemic—Tuesday found Jose Luis Garcia not guilty of the most serious charges of sexually molesting his nieces in Woodland more than a decade ago. The trial resumed late last month after the months-long break.
The jury reported it was deadlocked 6-6 Monday, but Tuesday it had reached a verdict on the three out of the five charges the defendant was facing.
To the charge of anal or genital penetration where the victim is prevented from resisting, the jury concluded that the defendant was not guilty. And the jury found the defendant not guilty of rape of an intoxicated person.
However, the jury did find the defendant guilty of dissuading witnesses.
The court declared a mistrial on two other charges, and Judge David Rosenberg called for the parties to return Sept. 16 to see how the prosecution wishes to proceed.
Garcia was charged in a case stemming from an alleged rape that took place in a Woodland motel more than a decade ago. The incident, however, wasn’t known until the victim approached both the Santa Barbara and Woodland police in 2015.
When an investigation into the incident began, the two sisters of the victim claimed to have been also molested by the same man.
The case was not only sensitive but also very complicated. Inconsistent statements made by both the complaining witness and defendant made the court question their credibility. Statements made by family member witnesses were in question, and the case looked like it could have gone either direction till the very end.
Woodland Police Officer Matthew Jameson was the officer in charge of investigating the case when the alleged victim approached him about the incident with her uncle, Jose.
He said the alleged victim told him she had a good relationship with her uncle, whom she saw as a father figure in her life. He had been present throughout her childhood and was also responsible for bringing her to the states from Mexico when she was still very young.
According to Jameson, the victim told him that in Oct. 2009, the defendant came over to visit her and offered to take her out for a hamburger; the occasion was her upcoming 15th birthday.
But on the way to a Woodland Jack in the Box, the defendant had rerouted over to a liquor store where he bought some water and sprite. According to the victim, she accepted water from a clear water bottle and took a few sips. When the water tasted particularly sour, she noticed that she was starting to become drowsy.
Taking advantage of her state, the victim told Jameson, the defendant took her over to a nearby hotel, identified as the Cinderella Inn, where he had sexual intercourse with her while wearing a condom.
When Jameson asked her whether this was the first occurrence of sexual contact initiated by her uncle, the victim recollected abuse tracing back to when she was five years old in addition to numerous instances where the defendant had tried to get her to touch him sexually.
Through the continued investigation, it was discovered that the victim had told her boyfriend about the incident, who had in turn told her mother.
Over a phone call made by Jameson in September 2015, Sister 1 told him that the alleged victim had asked her to lie to the officer and claim that she too, had been molested by her uncle. Sister 1 claimed that, despite having a strained relationship with her uncle, he had never molested her. She further informed Jameson that her uncle was currently hiding out in Mexico as he knew about the allegations made against him.
After the phone call, Jameson said he spoke to the victim again and asked her about whether she had told her sister to lie to him. The victim denied this and even attributed pressure from their grandmother (the defendant’s mother) as the reason why Sister 1 had accused her.
Things once again took a confusing turn for Jameson when, in his next phone conversation with Sister 1, she admitted to lying in their previous phone call and said she had been molested by her uncle when she was 16; he had often threatened her that he would molest her if she didn’t hide his drugs. She told Jameson that she didn’t disclose this to him before, fearing her safety as her uncle had criminal ties back in Mexico.
A key part of the conversation came when Sister 1 told Jameson that the defendant had admitted to her that he had sex with the victim because she was good looking and had a “great ass.”
Throughout the case, this alleged statement proved to be the only statement regarding the defendant acknowledging doing the rape.
Jameson also said he spoke to Sister 2 about the same time, and that she also claimed to have been molested by the same uncle in the past.
As the investigation continued, Jameson stated that he had finally received the defendant’s number through a phone call he made with his mother. With the use of a Spanish translator, Jameson called back the defendant who confirmed his identity but denied the allegations made against him.
According to Jameson, the defendant told him that he had frequently visited his niece in Woodland. He also claimed to have had sexual intercourse with a 23-year-old woman at the Cinderella Inn prior to the incident, something which he had told the victim and her brother (his nephew).
When asked about the events that transpired on the day in question, the defendant told Jameson that it wasn’t he, but rather the victim, who had asked him to take her out to get a hamburger. After grabbing food, he had stopped at a gas station to fill up his car while buying gum from the liquor store attached to the station.
As they eventually passed the Cinderella Inn on their way back, the defendant remembered how the victim pointed to the inn and asked him whether it was the same hotel in which he had sex with the 23-year-old woman, a question to which he had answered yes.
The defendant further provided details as to when he would be returning from Mexico to California and to which address he would be returning. In Officer Jameson’s words, the defendant was cooperative.
The only aspect of the defendant’s behavior which Jameson said he thought was interesting was a conversation he had with the defendant’s mother at the Yolo County Jail, following her son’s 2019 arrest.
The phone calls, which occurred in Spanish and were translated by Officer Rogelio Orozco, included Jose Garcia telling his mother to inform the defendant’s girlfriend to follow through on his instructions and contact his sister so that she can “say what he told her to.”
In a later call, Orozco said the defendant told his mother to visit his sister and stay with her as they had a lot to discuss as a family.
Despite Jameson’s assurance that the victim had made clear statements about the incident, the courtroom was surprised when another investigative officer, Andy Radejko of the Santa Barbara Police department, took to the stand and told the court statements made by the victim to him, some of which contradicted her claims to Jameson.
As maintained by Radejko, he first interviewed the alleged victim in July 2015 at the Santa Barbara Police station. The victim had approached him about her abusive uncle and claimed that he had raped her in 2009 when she was 13 years of age (victim claimed she was 15 to Jameson). She had made the move to Santa Barbara when she was 17 years of age.
The victim also told Radejko that, after drinking from the water bottle given to her by her uncle, she felt herself getting drowsy. When her uncle took her to the nearby Cinderella Inn, he had dragged her out of the car and into the room. Despite attempts to resist, she was unable to put up a fight as the effects of the liquid made her body heavy.
Her uncle proceeded to take off her clothes and told her that they were going to have “the time of their lives.” After forcefully having intercourse with her, he told her to keep her mouth shut, threatening to take her to the immigration office if she didn’t. She finally told Radejko that she feared for the safety of her sisters.
The victim wasn’t helped when her aunt and first cousin, both of whom she was living with at the time of the incident, took the stand respectively and stated that they found her behavior untrustworthy during the time they lived together.
The victim’s aunt, sister of the defendant and the victim’s mother, said that the alleged victim would lie to her about many things and would often bring her boyfriend over to the house without permission—recklessness which both the mother and first cousin attributed to their deciding that the victim needed to move away from the house.
The victim’s first cousin, a medical assistant, claimed that she was notified by the victim about being raped by their uncle. Despite finding the victim’s mental stability “not there,” she remembered believing the validity of her statements.
And, using medical contacts she had, the cousin even scheduled an appointment with a Rape Crisis Center for the victim—a meeting which the victim ultimately didn’t attend.
Dr. Blake D. Carmichael, a Licensed Therapist working with the UC Davis CAARE center (Child Adolescent Abuse Resource Evaluation Diagnostic Treatment Center) took the stand as an expert in the case. Dr. Blake had training and experience at working and treating children and adults who had been sexually assaulted.
According to Dr. Carmichael, his experience with children who faced sexual assault at a young age created something known medically as the Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS). This syndrome is present in children who are faced with the challenge of forgetting traumatic sexual experiences in their childhood.
Dr. Carmichael declared that it would be very much possible for this trauma to invoke a bad sense of recollection regarding the traumatic incident, a subconscious effort made by victims to forget what happened to them.
Carmichael also debunked a few myths of sexual assault, stating that children are often unlikely to immediately disclose quickly to their family and peers that they have been assaulted, due to fear of consequences and feelings of shame and guilt.
Additionally, Carmichael said that, throughout his career, he noticed a strong correlation between the relationship with the perpetrator and the time it took for victims to disclose information; The closer the relationship, the longer it took. This may also account for why some victims still remain close to perpetrators and don’t completely avoid them.
The defendant agreed to testify. Garcia said he had often visited his sister’s residence to see his family. He had developed a good relationship with his nieces and also said he was around for their childhood.
The defendant added he took his niece out for a hamburger in 2010, not 2009. He was consistent with the statements he made to Officer Jameson while declaring that he had never molested, raped, or sexually assaulted any of his nieces in any manner.
In closing, the prosecution focused on trauma faced by the alleged victim, a scar she carried from her youth. The prosecution highlighted how the victim was kept in a difficult family scenario, in which she not only saw her father-figure uncle in a different light, but also held a truth that had the potential to break her family apart.
And the prosecution used statements made by Dr. Carmichael in claiming that victims of sexual assault have to overcome many psychological barriers before they feel ready to disclose such experiences. By bringing out such sensitive information about a family member, the victim was exhibiting bravery and resilience.
In contrast to these statements, the defense questioned the credibility of the victim, referring to the inconsistencies made by the victim throughout the case, specifically pointing out details she made about her age.
The defense also questioned the likeliness of the defendant having the opportunity to spike the victim’s drink in a public liquor store. Not only would that have had to take place in front of other people, but it also would have required the defendant to accurately estimate beforehand the right amount of substance to add to her drink, said the defense.
Lastly, the defense spoke about statements made by the victim’s aunt and cousin. He repeatedly stated that none of these members are in any way financially dependent on Jose Garcia, and thus don’t need to be defending him. Instead, both accused the victim of not being trustworthy, while claiming to have good relationships with the defendant themselves.
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9