By Roxanna Jarvis
SACRAMENTO – After a preliminary hearing went sideways here in Sacramento County Superior Court last week, a 50-year-old man now faces charges of committing lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14 by force or fear, after his girlfriend’s daughter came forward after years of allegedly enduring physical and sexual assault.
Worse for defendant Frank Manuel Diaz, who wore a gray suit and tie and had with him a large notebook when he appeared for his preliminary hearing over Zoom, his bail is now $1 million.
Diaz is charged on three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 and three counts of committing such acts with the use of force or fear.
Diaz’s actions allegedly came to light on June 28, 2019, when the alleged victim, Diaz’s long-term girlfriend’s daughter, texted her grandmother that she had been molested.
When her grandmother received the text, she replied to the victim, “I’m coming to get you. Get your belongings and meet me outside.” Later that day, the victim and her grandmother met with Det. Kelly Hodges at Sacramento Sheriff’s headquarters.
While Diaz was the victim’s boyfriend, Det. Hodges explained that the victim referred to Diaz as her stepfather when asked to identify him through photos. “She considered him like a father figure in her life,” the Det. testified.
The victim, 13 years old at the time, had been sleeping in her room when Diaz came in wearing a towel and shook her awake, telling her to get up because they had to go to the “storage place.” Diaz insisted she accompany him, telling her, “Let’s go. Your mom won’t let you stay here by yourself.” Then the alleged sexual misconduct ensued.
“Was anyone else home with her and the defendant at the time?” asked Deputy District Attorney Dinah Mielke. “It was just those two at the time,” answered Det. Hodges. “Her mom was at work.” The victim waited until she heard Diaz leave the room, then she immediately contacted her grandma.
While waiting outside, Diaz pleaded with her that he wouldn’t touch her again and to come back in the house, said the detective. “They were talking and he said he couldn’t go to jail and [told her] please change your story, he was sorry and it would never happen again,” recounted Hodges. She told Diaz that she couldn’t do that.
The victim then observed Diaz walking back into the house and into the kitchen. He proceeded to grab a knife and tell her, “I’m going to die.” Through the open front door, the victim witnessed Diaz walk to his room and cut his wrists one to three times. After doing so, Diaz came outside, told the victim there were keys on the table, and left.
This was not the first time Diaz had been inappropriate with the victim, it was alleged by the detective.
In February 2020, Det. Hodges received a call from the victim’s grandmother. “She said that [her granddaughter] told her this wasn’t the first time it happened and did not want to talk much to her about it,” Hodges said. “Her grandma thought I should know.”
Hodges conducted a follow-up interview with the victim, where she recounted various instances where Diaz had touched her inappropriately or ordered her to touch him. She told Hodges she did not say anything sooner because “she was just scared, and ashamed and [thought] it was her fault.”
Diaz and the victim were often left alone in the house as her mother would often be working. Diaz would often yell and physical abuse would ensue. “She mentioned a time where he backhanded her and caused her nose to bleed,” said Hodges to the court. In other instances, Diaz would poke her chest and push her down.
Diaz was also abusive with the victim’s mother. The victim recalled a time when all three were in the car and Diaz had hit her mother while she was driving and forced her to get out of the car. The victim would oftentimes witness Diaz hitting, pushing, and slapping her mother in front of her.
While Hodges recounted the abuse inflicted on the victim and her mother, Diaz’s private attorney Victor Matl objected, stating that the details were irrelevant. Regarding the mother’s abuse, Matl stated, “This has nothing to do with any sexual abuse and the DA is just stepping over the line [with her questions].”
Judge Ernest Sawtelle overruled the objections, stating that it goes toward the charge that force is alleged, and “can go to how the victim perceived directions to touch the defendant.”
When it was Matl’s turn to question Hodges, he made a number of suggestive inferences which led to a variety of objections.
He stated that the victim covered her face with the stuffed giraffe so “she wouldn’t have to talk to [Diaz].” When explaining to Hodges, he said “Well you testified that she had been afraid of him several times, isn’t that true? So, would it not be likely that she didn’t want to go with him for that reason?” Judge Sawtelle sustained the objection by DDA Mielke
When describing the incident on June 28, Matl suggested to Hodges that since the victim did not see but only feel and hear what happened, she doubted it was Diaz. “Didn’t she say it must have been him because we have no friends that come to our home?” Matl asked Det. Hodges.
“Yeah, she said there’s no one else home, no one comes over. It was him.” Hodges clarified.
“Right. But, she expressed basically, sort of indirectly, she expressed doubt it may have been someone else,” replied Matl. Judge Sawtelle also sustained the ensuing DDA objection.
Matl then asked for the reports made by Hodges about the touching over the clothes and asked if there was any action taken against Diaz regarding arrests for use of force on the victim.
“The detective doesn’t do that,” interjected Judge Sawtelle.
“Well, she would know whether or not,” began Matl before Judge Sawtelle said it was irrelevant.
Judge Sawtelle found it appropriate to hold Diaz accountable for all six charges against him. While currently out of custody on $100,000 bail only for the first count of lewd and lascivious acts, new bail with the additional five counts boosts new bail to $1 million.
It will be determined next week if bail can be raised by the defendant; if not, the defendant will be taken into custody.
Roxanna Jarvis is a fourth-year student at UC Berkeley, currently majoring in Political Science with a minor in Public Policy. She is from Sacramento, California.
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