Judge Denies Defense Motion for Closed Hearing, Finds Sufficient Evidence to Bring Child Sexual Abuse Case to Trial

By Michael Apfel

MODESTO, CA – Judge Shawn Bessey denied a man’s motion requesting a closed hearing in Stanislaus County Superior Court Monday, and also found sufficient evidence to proceed to trial for two charges of felony sexual acts with children under 10 and three charges of felony sexual abuse of a child

Prior to the preliminary examination for the man—who won’t be identified to protect the identity of underage witnesses—his defense counsel filed a motion requesting the hearing be kept closed due to its sensitive nature, arguing, “(accused) is asking that this be a closed hearing due to the nature of the offenses and the testimony that will be heard.”

Samuel Luzadas, the Deputy District Attorney, did not offer a counter argument. Despite this, Judge Bessey promptly denied the motion.

“All co-matters are a public hearing,” said Judge Bessey. “I don’t find that this would be a hearing I would relieve the public from viewing, so your motion is denied.”

The preliminary examination began with the prosecution’s direct examination of detective Gina Giovacchini, who on July 30, 2020, spoke with the first alleged victim in an interview at the Turlock Police Department. This alleged victim was 15 years old at the time of the interview.

“I was asked to interview her as a result of a sexual assault that had happened to her, and she wanted to speak to a female detective,” Giovacchini said.

In this interview, the alleged victim acknowledged being sexually assaulted and identified the perpetrator as her stepfather. The alleged victim stated the incidents occurred in her home in Turlock while she was living with the accused.

The detective then went into detail about the alleged assaults, which “began with touching over the clothing” and included sexual acts including sex.

These incidents began when the alleged victim was in the second grade, and was nine years old. These sex acts allegedly happened over dozens of times from 2014 to 2019, occurring approximately once a month, according to witnesses.

On cross-examination, the defense attorney asked questions about the detective’s knowledge of the alleged victim’s house, her family, and whom she told about the alleged sexual assaults.

“She mentioned she told one of her sisters that he touched her, but she didn’t provide any details regarding what happened,” said the detective.

The alleged victim told the detective she did not inform anyone besides her sister. Further cross-examination revealed the detective did not have the alleged victim describe the accused’s genitals or whether he used contraceptives during intercourse.

Following this direct examination, the prosecution called a different detective from the Turlock Police Department involved in the case, Ronald Garcia. Garcia was the lead investigator in the case, and he interviewed two victims aside, and the accused.

The mother of the three alleged victims reported the sexual assault, prompting Garcia’s interviews. The victims confirmed to Garcia that the accused was the perpetrator of these sexual act, one victim stating assault would occur as often as five times a month.

The accused confirmed to the detectives he was the stepfather of the three alleged victims and confessed to sexually abusing them.

The defense further cross-examined Garcia about the detective’s inquiry as to the alleged victim’s knowledge of the accused’s genitals and the use of contraceptives, and Garcia stated that some questions were asked about the accused’s genitals and he discussed the use of contraceptives with the victim.

About The Author

Michael Apfel is a second year at USC majoring in Legal Studies and minoring in Sports Media Industries. He plans on law school after his undergraduate studies looking to work in social justice.

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