By Linhchi Nguyen
SACRAMENTO – Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette Friday lifted a no-contact order to allow a defendant, who is charged with sex crimes, to have supervised visits with his granddaughter.
Defendant David Hart appeared in court alongside his defense attorney and two other witnesses in order to challenge a “no-contact stay-away order” that prevents him from seeing his granddaughter.
The no-contact order was originally put in place by the victim of the case, who is Hart’s biological adult daughter. The victim alleged that Hart committed sex crimes against her, and she refused to allow Hart to contact her child.
However, private defense attorney Thomas S. Clinkenbeard indicated that the victim is “not the legal guardian for that child,” and, therefore, does not have the legal right to make choices for that child.
In fact, the child has not been living with her biological mother ever since the victim recently went to prison.
“My understanding is that when the complaining witness went to prison the last time, [the child’s great grandmother] became the legal guardian,” Clinkenbeard added.
Deputy District Attorney James Wax, who filed the no-contact order at the victim’s request, confirmed that the victim “doesn’t have the right to dictate any no-contact order.” But he felt that the request was appropriate given the nature of the case which involves a sexual assault against a biological relative.
“A young child is vulnerable,” Wax explained. “So we understood the victim’s concern. And the court ended up agreeing with that and granted a no-contact order.”
However, Clinkenbeard had the legal guardian be present as a witness in court that day in order to request a modification of the order.
“I believe…the child’s legal guardian is authorized to make decisions in her best interest and on her behalf. She will tell you that it is in the child’s best interest to have a continuing and ongoing relationship with Mr. David Hart, who is the child’s grandfather. They have a close relationship. The child misses him,” said Clinkenbeard.
Clinkenbeard assured the court that the defendant has secured a separate residence from the child, where he would be residing with his mother and father.
“Should the court modify the order as requested, Mr. Hart will continue to live separately, but it will simply authorize Mr. Hart to have supervised visitation with his granddaughter.” The legal guardian will also be prepared to supervise the visits.
Although Wax opposed the idea of modifying the no-contact order, he asked, if the court were to allow for some type of contact, “that it would only be supervised contact as the defense indicated.”
Judge Marlette agreed with Wax that he didn’t want an order “that’s going to allow nearly constant contact.” Wax suggested the court limit the length of the visits such that there would be no overnight stays nor “14-hours at a time.”
Marlette came to a decision that complied with both of the attorneys’ requests. He allowed for supervised visitations by the defendant to his granddaughter with a limited time of twice a week and no more than 8 hours in the day time.
Thus, Marlette terminated the current no-contact order and requested Wax file a new one on that day. “If this becomes a problem on either side, feel free to bring it back,” Marlette told the attorneys.
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