USA TODAY NETWORK Brendan Farrington, Associated Press
By Christopher Cousins, BDN Staff
A Sidney man serving 50 years in prison for child sexual abuse will have his case reconsidered following a Thursday ruling by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court that vacates his guilty plea and some of the findings against him during prosecution.
Eric Bard, 25, of Sidney, who is accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl he was babysitting and recording it with his cellphone, pleaded guilty in 2014 to 21 charges, including sexual assault and sexual exploitation of a minor. Because of the guilty plea, there was no trial and Bard was sent to prison.
However, a law court decision released Thursday found that a judge and the prosecutor in the original case held an improper meeting without Bard’s attorney present, leading to a violation of Bard’s due process rights.
“To be clear, no adjudication or determination of actual bias has occurred and we do not reach any such finding here,” reads the decision. “Rather, we base our decision on the defendant’s due process rights implicated by the potential for bias and the importance of public trust and confidence in the procedures employed by the courts.”
I'm sorry - he was guilty, he admitted he was guilty, and there was potential for bias because the prosecutor said he was guilty in front of the judge? Would she not have said the same thing if defense council had been present? But somehow, there would have been no potential for bias then!
During the pre-trial motions period of the case, Justice Donald Marden met with Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney for a conversation about whether Maloney made an ethical error when she contacted two pretrial services agencies about supervising Bard while he was released on bail. Bard’s defense team was not notified about the meeting until later, when Marden assured them that the facts of the case were not discussed during the meeting. Bard’s attorney did not request a transcript of the meeting.
However, the law court found that the discussion involved issues related to Bard’s competency for trial; suggestions from Marden about how Maloney might proceed with the case; and Maloney making comments about her belief that Bard was guilty and how emotionally difficult it is to prosecute cases involving child sexual abuse.
Marden later ruled against Bard on motions to dismiss the case, suppress evidence allegedly found in Bard’s home as well as finding him mentally competent to enter the guilty plea. Thursday’s decision vacates those decisions, as well as Bard’s guilty plea.
“On these facts, we are persuaded that Bard was deprived of the fair process to which he was entitled,” reads the ruling.
Attorney Gina Yamartino, who is now representing Bard, said in a prepared statement that “every defendant has the right to an impartial judge.”
“The court was persuaded that our client was deprived of the fair process to which he was entitled,” said Yamartino. “A due process infirmity arose when the trial court held an ex parte conference on a subject directly related to the charges against our client.”
Good grief! Must have been a slow week on the Supreme Court bench!
By Mila Murray firstname.lastname@example.org
These bills, senate bills 871-880, were introduced on Feb. 26 and were supported by some Nassar survivors.
The Michigan Senate voted to retroactively give victims of abuse more time to sue in senate bills 871-873. These bills seek to "eliminate the statute of limitations on second-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) involving a victim under 18 years old" and allow "an indictment for third-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a victim under 18 to be filed within 30 years after the offense or by the victim's 48th birthday," the bill analysis states.
The senate voted to amend the Child Protection law in bill 874, specifying that if those who are "required to report suspected child abuse or child neglect" knowingly failed to report it if they had direct knowledge of the abuse, they are guilty of a felony. These bills called for the penalty of not reporting to be higher.
Bill 877 eliminated governmental immunity for individuals and entities that have committed sexual assault. The bill analysis states that, "a member, officer, employee, or agent of a governmental agency or a volunteer who engaged in sexual misconduct while employed or acting on behalf of the governmental agency would not be immune under the law from tort liability."
And bill 878 would "prescribe an enhanced felony penalty" for those in possession of child pornography.
This bill package was sponsored by Sen. Margaret O'Brien, Sen. David Knezek, Sen. Rick Jones, Sen. Marty Knollenberg, Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr. and Sen. Ken Horn. The legislation will now move to the House of Representatives, where it would have to pass and be signed by Gover. Rick Snyder before it becomes law.
On Wednesday, when the bills were in the Senate, Interim MSU President John Engler visited the Senate to address the legislation, ESPN reports. Engler favored parts of the legislation and asked senators to hold off voting on other parts of the legislation until more "fiscal analysis could be done."
"MSU President Engler personally went to the Senate and tried to kill our legislative package to give assault survivors access to the justice system, and protect children. MSU spokesman Truscott says I have no business expressing concern about this, because I'm talking about something I know nothing about. This is how MSU treats sexual assault victims. Feel safe yet?"
Ultimately, the amended bill package was passed.
"This package of bills delivers justice, justice for the children who were sexually assaulted," O'Brien said in the ESPN article.
ABERDEEN, S.D. – Five men facing charges in a Marshall County sexual abuse case involving a teenager have accepted plea agreements.
The American News reports that 20-year-old Michael Mejilla pleaded guilty to three charges Wednesday. The day before, 21-year-old Damon Koop and 28-year-old Dustin Purcell entered guilty pleas.
They were arrested in October along with 29-year-old Edgar Ramos and 26-year-old Luis Maaz, who have also entered guilty pleas. Court documents say the men were charged for illegal sexual interactions with a girl who was younger than 16.
Three defendants originally faced child pornography charges for exchanging images with the teenager through social media. State law says it’s illegal for someone under 16 to consent to sexual acts and illegal for those younger than 18 to send or receive sexual images.
Sentencing is expected in April or May.
The five-woman, seven-man jury deliberated more than two hours Friday after being seated in Judge Thomas Alford's courtroom earlier in the week.
Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge said Judge Thomas Alford scheduled sentencing for both men on April 25. He said both sentences required 85 percent of the term be served, meaning if sentenced as the jury recommended, Hernandez will have to serve more than 25 years before being eligible for parole and Romero-Sanchez will have to serve 17 years before he could be paroled.
Hernandez, also known as Ubaldo Hernandez-Ortiz, was accused of fondling the child and of sexually abusing the child orally and in other ways, court records said. The incidents reportedly happened several times during the five-year time frame.
Assistant Muskogee County District Attorney Nalani Ching prosecuted the case for the state. Representing Hernandez and Sanchez was attorney Andrew Hayes.
Among witnesses testifying were Muskogee Police Department officers, a representative of Kids' Space, the victim, who is now older than 18, and family members. Ching said it is not unusual for a victim in child sexual abuse cases to be reluctant to talk about those instances and to not come forward immediately.
She said Hernandez' testimony had conflicting accounts. Ching questioned his recollection of specific details when he admitted to being drunk. Hernandez said when he was intoxicated, he never recalled having any sexual contact with the victim. Hernandez said he felt he would have remembered something like that if it happened.
Ching said at one point Hernandez indicated the child had a history of lying, and he later contradicted that.
Ching said there was no testimony presented by family members that indicated inconsistencies in what happened to the child. On questioning Muskogee Police Officer Lynn Hamlin, who interviewed the child in 2015, Ching asked about vagueness of the victim's testimony.
"Is it unusual for a victim of things like this, is it unusual for someone who has been perpetrated on like this to not necessarily remember the first time something happened?" Ching said. "Is it unusual for someone to say, 'you know what, I didn't realize what was happening to me was wrong?'"
Hamlin said neither of those instances was unusual when dealing with a child.
Ching said when the victim finally came forward making the accusations, she had no job, no plan on where to go and had left the security of a home that provided basic needs of housing and food. She said when the victim came forward, she left the home with only a backpack of personal items, while she left behind two closets full of clothes.
Hernandez and Romero-Sanchez will be formally sentenced at a later date.
Court documents show the young child's mother became suspicious when the child claimed to have a secret. The documents show the abuse happened over four days in February.
The charge against Skahill is second degree sexual abuse, and it carries a penalty of up to 25 years in prison.
MESQUITE, TX — One Mesquite man and longtime member of Parkside Baptist Church was arrested Thursday after an investigation led police suspect him of sexually abusing a child.
Baldiviez was a Sunday school teacher and volunteer at the church before his arrest, police said. He is accused of abusing a child on church property and during church events from March 2017 to October 2017.
Police believe other children at the church could be victims of sexual abuse. Anyone with information about sexual abuse of children is urged to contact the Mesquite Police Department at 972-285-6336.
Fort Bliss has a diverse mission set, including being the home station for the 1st Armored Division and the Army's largest training area.
Children-on-children sexual assault is a problem across the military, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.
In Texas, there were 56 reported cases of sex assault or rape among juveniles at military bases since 2007.
At Fort Bliss, there were 10 such cases, while Fort Hood in Central Texas had 41 during the same time frame, according to the Associated Press.
Fort Bliss officials said the post and the Army take the issue seriously and have a wide range of programs, procedures and services designed to stop sexual assault or abuse.
“Regardless of the type of assault or harassment, installation personnel are trained to spot abuse and report it to either local Child Protective Services, to the police, the Fort Bliss Family Advocacy program, or our Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program folks,” said Guy Volb, the director of Garrison Public Affairs at Fort Bliss.
Volb said that among the methods used to to address the issue and educate the community are: behavioral health consultations for children, adolescents and families, school-based behavioral health services, and community outreach efforts to create a partnership between on-post and local community agencies that serve Army children and families.
The Associated Press documented nearly 600 cases of this type of sex assault on military bases during the past 11 years. The news organization used a combination of interviews and records and data pieced together from the military’s four main branches and the military’s school system.
“Reports of assaults and rapes among kids on military bases often die on the desks of prosecutors, even when an attacker confesses,” the Associated Press reported.
Part of the problem is sexual assault cases involving children can be difficult to investigate and “messy to prosecute,” according to the Associated Press.
The report also cites a complex jurisdictional maze that often leaves these cases in what it called a “dead zone of justice with neither the victim or offender receiving help.”
The Associated Press began investigating sexual violence among military children after readers of its 2017 investigation of sexual assault in U.S. public schools described an even more complex problem at military bases.
Pentagon officials promised to take “appropriate actions” and called this an emerging problem, according to the Associated Press.
The Associated Press, however, found that military lawyers had been warning about a juvenile justice “black hole” on military bases since the 1970s.
Fort Bliss has grown from having about 9,000 active-duty service members to more than 30,000 in the past decade.
The growth primarily resulted from moving the 1st Armored Division to Fort Bliss from its previous home in Germany. The post also has added a variety of new missions in recent years, including being home to the Joint Modernization Command, which helps to spearhead Army and joint modernization efforts.
A 44-year-old White Plains man was convicted Friday of sexually abusing a young child for two years.
The sexual abuse began when the girl was 11 and ended when she was 13, at which time she told her family who reported it to Rye police, prosecutors said.
After finding DNA evidence in the victim's shorts, Hobbs was arrested in his White Plains home last July.
He was remanded without bail while he waits for his sentencing, which is scheduled for May 15.
He faces up to 32 years in prison with post-release supervision and will have to register as a sex offender after he gets out of jail.
A traveling pastor in Durham has been arrested by State Bureau of Investigation officers on charges of alleged child sex abuse charges.
The Department of Homeland Security participated in the operation.
Saravia admitted to using a fictitious identity Facebook account to entice a 14-year-old Virginia girl into producing sexually explicit videos of herself which she then sent to Saravia, SBI investigators said. There may be more minor victims, investigators said.
Investigators are concerned because if there are more victims who are undocumented immigrants, they may be less likely to report the crimes committed against them.
Saravia was charged with first-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and taking indecent liberties with a child. Saravia was being held in the Durham County jail in lieu of $750,000 bail.
The SBI is working with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to determine Saravia's precise immigration status and whether or not he previously has been deported.
A Pleasant Valley man is accused of sexually assaulting a young child over a two year time period, according to the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office.
An investigation by the sheriff's office and the Dutchess County Child Advocacy Center led to Contreras Castillo's arrest.
"The assaults weren’t arbitrary, so at this time there does not appear to be any threat to public safety," Capt. John Watterson of the sheriff's office said, via news release. "All further details about the case are being withheld to protect the victim’s privacy."
Contreras Castillo was arraigned in the Town of Pleasant Valley Court and sent to Dutchess County Jail with no bail. He's due back in court on March 20, according to the jail.
Anyone with information about this case or other incidents involving Contreras Castillo are asked to contact Deputy Ben Sistarenik at 845-486-3778. The Sheriff’s Office can also be contacted at 845-605-CLUE (2583) or email@example.com. All information will be kept confidential.
ALMA, Wisconsin – A southeastern Minnesota man is going to prison for sexual abuse.
Vogel has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and 20 years of extended supervision. He must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) – A Cumberland County man has been arrested on child sexual abuse charges involving multiple victims and spanning almost 20 years, police said.
Police said Shannon abused the children when they were between the ages of 5 and 9 years old.
The charges against Shannon are outlined in three separate criminal dockets. Bail in each of the cases was set at $250,000. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 28.
Police said their investigation is ongoing to determine whether there are any additional victims. Anyone with information should call Carlisle police Detective Klinger at 717-243-5252 ext. 3.