Richard’s nearly 10 – year relationship with his live-in girlfriend ended in total disaster that almost ruined his life: her teenage daughter made the worst possible accusations against him. Child molestation for allegedly forcing her to have oral sex and suffer sexual touching. And not just once, but essentially over her entire childhood. Richard got sacked with the following child sex abuse felonies in Spartanburg:
- Criminal sexual conduct with a minor 1st degree, carrying 25 years or life in prison. That’s right, those are the only two sentencing choices if convicted.
- Two counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor 2nd degree, carrying up to 20 years each.
- Assault and battery 1st degree, carrying up to 10 years.
- Disseminating obscene material to a child (for allegedly showing her dirty movies), carrying up to 10 years.
If he got convicted of all charges, Richard faced life or up to 85 years in prison. The criminal sexual conduct charges required service of 85% of the sentence before release.
He also faced lifetime sex offender registration, and if he got convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a minor 1st degree, GPS monitoring for life with an ankle bracelet upon release (if he ever got out).
What could we do to help him out of this seemingly hopeless situation? Painstakingly break down the timeline of the accusations and point out how they didn’t make sense. Several primary factors played the major role in Richard’s defense.
- Access. To commit these crimes, Richard needed to be left alone for long periods of time with the child. A self-confessed workaholic, he often worked long into the night and out of town. When he was home, he retreated to his shop to work on cars as a side business. He spent most of his weekends hunting or racing with his friends. A former roommate attested he was rarely home before moving in with the girlfriend. The roommate also stated when girlfriend brought the child around, the girlfriend kept a close eye on her. Richard had virtually no chance to be alone with her.
- Motive. We developed a motive for both girlfriend and the teenager to concoct the accusations. Richard put the girlfriend’s house in her name but he paid for it. We felt we could prove she feared him trying to take the house back.
The teenager’s motive related to why Richard and her mother broke up. Her mother went back to her father. This gave her an overwhelming emotional incentive to protect their reconciliation any way she could.
- Expert. We had Richard submit to a psychosexual evaluation by a foremost expert in this state. Based on a battery of tests, the expert concluded Richard posed no sexual threat to anyone of any age.
We got the case ready for trial, but had meaningful negotiations with the assistant solicitor prosecuting the case. The assistant solicitor finally made us an offer Richard accepted, even though it exposed him to a potential prison sentence. All the child molestation and obscenity charges got dropped. He pled to assault and battery 1st degree in an Alford plea. Alford is a United States Supreme Court case that lets a defendant plead guilty while continuing to assert his innocence, but acknowledging he could be convicted based on the evidence. Richard still faced the sex offender registry, too.
Sentencing. For sentencing, we got the report from our expert. We also got a very supportive letter from Richard’s boss about his longstanding hard work with the company and how they depended on him, as this presented him as a responsible member of society and necessary worker for his employer. We also presented the evidence of his innocence.
The judge sentenced him to 10 years, but suspended it to 18 months house arrest and 30 months probation. The judge ruled Richard did not need to register as a sex offender.Needless to say, Richard was relieved and thrilled at this outcome. We were equally relieved and thrilled to be part of it. A ton of hard work prevented a man’s life from being ruined.