Jury finds Nevada County man not guilty in groping case | TheUnion.com

Jury finds Nevada County man not guilty in groping case

A jury found a Grass Valley man innocent of sexual battery Thursday morning after a two-day trial in a case where he was accused of groping a woman during a summer festival last year.

Jesse Gardner was arrested and accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Robinson's Plaza during Hot Summer Nights in Nevada City on July 18.

A Roseville woman in her late 20s was waiting in line to use the public restroom at the bottom of Commercial Street in the historic downtown of Nevada City at around 6:30 p.m. when a man approached her, shoved her against a wall and groped her, she told Nevada City Police officers.

The woman defended herself and kneed her assailant in his groin.

“This was a case that needed to go to trial

— the facts needed to be decided by a jury.”

— Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Ray De Jesus

The man reportedly fled, but Gardner was later arrested based on the woman's description; she also reportedly identified him in a lineup.

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"From the beginning, Mr. Gardner has maintained his innocence and has vigorously challenged his misidentification in court," said Nevada County Deputy Public Defender Jody Schutz. "He was incarcerated for 30 days before being able to post bail.

"His motion for a lineup was opposed by the District Attorney and denied by the court," Schutz continued.

"There were numerous deficiencies in the investigation of the case by the Nevada City Police Department that created grave concerns about the reliability of the identification, but the case was still pursued to trial by the District Attorney. Today, Mr. Gardner was vindicated when a jury found him not guilty."

"There is a natural difficulty in eyewitness identification cases," said Nevada County Deputy District Attorney Ray De Jesus.

"This was a case that needed to go to trial — the facts needed to be decided by a jury. I commend them for taking it seriously; I think they deliberated for about four hours." said De Jesus.

In other court news

— A 31-year-old Grass Valley man pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of child molestation involving multiple victims.

Jonathan Scott Foote was arrested Feb. 14 for allegedly molesting at least five boys over a period of 11 years; the boys were in their very early teens at the time of the alleged incidents.

Foote was booked into Wayne Brown Correctional Facility on suspicion of lewd and lascivious acts with a child younger than 14 and continuous sexual abuse of a child. He is being held in county jail in lieu of $5 million bail.

On Thursday, Foote pleaded not guilty to an amended complaint that added new charges and two new victims.

A felony conference was set for April 25.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4229.

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