By Anna Kristina Moseidjord
SACRAMENTO, CA — Forty-year-old “John”* was accused of sexually assaulting his 13-year-old step-daughter—the alleged victim described it as “witchcraft-y”—in a preliminary hearing in Sacramento County Superior Court Thursday. The judge later found he should stand trial for three counts of child molestation and assault.
* NOTE: “John” is not the real name of the defendant. The Vanguard is not using the real name to protect the identity of the victim.
The prosecution’s case alleges that in June of 2019, John dropped his girlfriend off at the airport and drove his 13-year-old stepdaughter to Japantown, where they “hung out” for a while. After they left Japantown, John took his stepdaughter to IKEA, where they bought candles, and then drove home.
At their house, John led his stepdaughter through a ritual she described as “witchcraft-y,” she told police. The ritual included lighting the candles they had just bought at IKEA, and burning small pieces of paper they had written messages on.
After the ritual, John allegedly told the victim that they “had to stay on the bed for eight hours or it wouldn’t work.” He then, she said, put on a movie, and, while she was watching it, grabbed her and raped her. All of this is alleged in her police interview, and was reviewed Thursday by a police officer assigned to the case.
The obviously emotional case was heard with pointed calm. John appeared via Zoom, as the judge, interpreter, lawyers, and witnesses involved in the case. The attorneys present included John’s lawyer, Hayes Gable, and Deputy District Attorney Dinah Mielke as the prosecutor.
As is typical in a preliminary hearing, Thursday’s proceedings focused primarily on laying out the evidence of the case, and demonstrating that there was enough evidence to take the case to trial.
The most significant moment of disagreement came at the end of the hearing, when Gable suggested that John should not be charged with multiple counts of sexual assault.
Defense Attorney Gable argued that, because the acts John allegedly committed all happened on the same day and essentially at the same time, he should only be charged with one count of sexual assault.
DDA Mielke strongly disagreed, saying, while all the acts may have “occurred on the same night, but between each act the defendant had time to think about what he was doing and choose to stop and he did not. These are four separate times the defendant puts his body on or inside the body of this child.”
While the ritualistic “witchcraft” aspect of the case was not dwelt upon in this preliminary hearing, Detective Elena Calderon did mention in her testimony that, about a week after the incident, the victim told a friend via Facebook messenger that she had performed a ritual and could now “hear some of her mother’s thoughts.”
Calderon also testified that the victim told her friend in a later Facebook message that she had been sexually assaulted.
Overall, the examinations and cross-examinations of the two police officers who testified uncovered relatively similar testimony.
Because much of the evidence of the case seems to rest on the police report presented by Detective Calderon and Detective Justin Stevenson, Thursday’s hearing focused heavily on the police work done on the case, rather than victims or physical evidence.
One notable aspect of the examination, however, was DDA Mielke’s repeated use of the birth dates for John and victim, underscoring their 27-year age difference.
The hearing was presided over by Judge Sam McAdam. Bail is set at $100,000, and an arraignment hearing will be held Nov. 5, prior to trial setting.