By Angie Madrid and Michael Wheeler
RIVERSIDE, CA — Nearly four years in the making, a jury trial began here in Riverside County Superior Court Wednesday for 53-year-old restaurant owner, Ronald Lynn Maestas, who is accused of sexually abusing a minor.
Back on July 25, 2017, defendant Ronald Lynn Maestas was arrested after being issued a $1 million arrest warrant in Riverside County. He is charged for committing lewd acts with force against a minor under the age of 14.
Deputy District Attorney Karrie Brusselback called for the testimonies of two witnesses—the minor’s former therapist, Mr. XX, and a family friend, Mr. BB.
DA Brusselback began her case by questioning therapist XX as to whether the victim had disclosed any experiences with inappropriate touching during the weekly sessions she had with him. XX had created a therapeutic relationship with the victim as he treated her for about a year.
The witness explained that the victim disclosed this information about three to four months into their therapy sessions, revealing she was being sexually abused and identified the perpetrator as Maestas.
Brusselback read the suspected child abuse report that was filed by her previous therapist, where the victim stated that he touched her inappropriately when she was 12 years old, but she also claimed the defendant felt remorse and would not do it again.
XX had already known about this report and stated, “There were innumerable instances of abuse that took place along the way, throughout her childhood forward.” He went further to mention the specific acts of abuse the victim had described.
Defense Attorney Graham Donath began his questioning of the witness, asking what his relationship with the defendant was. XX explained Maestas and his wife had been seeing him for counseling and he was also their pastor, but he did not have a personal relationship with him.
Donath continued, emphasizing XX’s knowledge of the incident. “The reason why I’m bringing this up is that in your mind, before she discloses stuff, you know of the underlying issue.”
XX believed his job was not to investigate the situation, but that was the job of Child Protection Services.
After XX’s testimonial, Bursselback called a second witness, BB, a former friend of Maestas, who, he met at a poker game and then joined a band with him for six months.
BB shared that he visited Maestas at his house one day, in which he appeared distraught, which led to a conversation. BB stated that Maestas appeared under the influence, asserting, “He was distraught. He was crying. He told me that he had memories where he had been in the bedroom…he was having trouble remembering activities that took place of sexual nature.”
BB also stated Maestas attended Alcohol Anonymous meetings and struggled with sobriety.
When asked about Maestas’s wife, Nancy Maestas, BB expressed he felt threatened by her after he knew about Maestas’s actions.
“They were worried about their company,” stated BB.
BB thought about coming forward about the incident but Nancy asserted, “It would be bad for everybody.”
BB said he wished he had stepped forward sooner.
Following the lunch break, Bursselback, Donath, and Judge Bernard Schwartz attempted to confirm the specific dates on which alleged instances of abuse had happened.
Specifically, they were concerned with whether the first instance of abuse had occurred in 2003 or 2004, before determining that it had occurred in 2004, on the victim’s fifth birthday.
Donath also questioned whether or not the victim had been abused under threat. There was nothing in the testimony, he said, “that says she did things because she was afraid or because he forced her too.”
Instead, he said that she “didn’t know it was wrong in the first place.” He did not think that force had been shown in the majority of counts against the defendant, excluding two instances which he did not contest
Bursselback strongly disagreed with Donath’s argument. She explained that due to the familial relationship between defendant and victim, psychological coercion by itself should be sufficient to show that the abuse had occurred under duress, saying, “The victim didn’t feel like she had a choice.”
Schwartz concurred with Bursselback, informing Donath that he believed that sufficient evidence had been presented to the jury to convict the defendant on multiple counts relating to the defendant’s use of force and that the potential conviction would likely be upheld on appeal.
After the conference, the jury re-entered the courtroom and Donath called CC, a physician’s assistant who repeatedly treated Maestas, to the stand. CC testified that he had treated Maestas multiple times, from about 2008 to 2013.
During his first visit, in 2008, Maestas reported having a lesion in the pubic area, where he also had a rash. Later, in 2010, he reported having frequent urination at night and requested medicine to treat a cold sore, although no genital lesions.
Both Donath and Bursselback questioned CC extensively over the defendant’s medical history with herpes. CC stated that following a test, Maestas tested positive for both types of herpes, HSV-1 and HSV-2. To combat this, CC prescribed the victim Valtrex, a drug used to treat both facial and genital herpes.
Today’s proceedings concluded after CC’s testimony, and Schwartz informed the court that Maesta’s trial would resume on Thursday, July 15, at 1:30 p.m. in Dept. 44.