This week’s story is about a Peninsula High School teacher in Rolling Hills Estates who plead not guilty to sex charges. He was a dance teacher and he is accused of engaging in sexual conduct with a 16-year-old female student. More specifically, the charges are five counts of oral copulation with a minor and one count of digital penetration with a minor. The acts actually took place four years ago. The female student is now a young adult, but she came forward to the police detailing acts that took place with the teacher in 2006 and 2007 when she was 16 years old.
The acts that she detailed and the charges indicate the real seriousness of the offense. Oral copulation with a minor is the act of touching of the mouth of one person with the sexual organ of another person. Oral copulation with a person under 16 years old carries a punishment as a felony with imprisonment in state prison for up to 3 years. Digital penetration with a minor is the act of causing the sexual organ of another person to be penetrated by a foreign object – in this case “digital” means the defendant’s digits (fingers). Digital penetration with a victim under 16 years old carries a punishment as a felony with imprisonment in state prison for up to 3 years.
The prosecution’s entire case is at the mercy of the victim’s credibility. This is especially so because she waited four years to tell anyone. It will be interesting to learn what her motivation was to come forward now. A good defense attorney will want to subpoena the accuser’s school, counseling, and medical records, interview his/her family, friends, schoolmates, and those she chats with online, and conduct a thorough background check on the accuser and any alleged witnesses. Sometimes, investigations reveal that the accuser has a bias and motive to harm the accused and that the accuser has a history of being untruthful and telling lies about other people as well.
If the acts actually took place, then one defense would be that the defendant had a good faith belief the accuser was 18 or over. The accused will be found not guilty if he reasonably and actually believed that the other person was age 18 or older. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not reasonably and actually believe that the other person was at least 18 years old. If the prosecution has not met this burden, the accused will be found not guilty. This may not be too difficult for the prosecution since at the time the accuser claims to be 16 she was also in high school as a junior. Defenses that are not available here would be consent or that the defendant and accuser were in a relationship.
You can read the story here.