A local man will be formally arraigned on 35 felony counts for allegedly molesting a number of boys, most of whom he supervised at Milhous Treatment Ranch about 10 years ago.
After an all-day preliminary hearing into the evidence against 31-year-old Jonathan Scott Foote, Nevada County Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger found sufficient evidence to hold Foote to answer on all charges.
Foote was arrested Feb. 14 for allegedly molesting a number of boys, most of whom were in their very early teens at the time of the alleged incidents.
Only one of the victims, who is now 20 years old, testified at the hearing Thursday.
The young man said that he grew up with Foote and considered him a brother.
“I looked up to him,” he said.
He testified that Foote started bringing up sex with him when he was about 11, then gradually taught him about performing escalating sexual acts.
“I remember thinking this is what big people do,” he said.
He testified that the two had intercourse a total of about three times beginning when he was 12 or 13.
“I remember panicking,” he said about the first incident, testifying that he asked Foote to stop, but that he didn’t.
The young man (Victim 1) testified that Foote had sexual interactions with him about 20 to 30 times, ending when he was 17 years old.
He eventually told a friend who was a mandated reporter, which led to charges being filed in Nevada County.
Nevada County Sheriff’s Det. Dominic LaFountain testified that he helped set up a “pretext” call between (Victim 1) and Foote, |in which Foote acknowledged having sex with the younger man starting when he was 13.
LaFountain said he discovered that now-retired Deputy Rob Davenport had taken a report on two alleged victims from Milhous — (Victim 2) and (Victim 3) — in 2003. LaFountain said that during an interview with Foote, the defendant admitted to sexual acts with those two boys, and to sexual contact with two others as well — (Victim 4) and (Victim 5)
Davenport, who currently works part time as a reserve deputy, testified that he interviewed (Victim 2) and (Victim 3) in March 2003 and that both told him the incidents had occurred several months prior. He said that Milhous at that time was serving “level 14” or severely emotionally disturbed children.
(Victim 2) told Davenport that he felt “intimidated and manipulated” into having oral intercourse with Foote, who threatened him with a “five-pointer.”
Milhous used negative points to enforce discipline, Davenport said; accumulating points could mean the loss of privileges that included free time or home visits.
“A five-pointer was the maximum” they could get in a day, Davenport said.
(Victim 2) told Davenport that he traded sexual favors for cigarettes and that Foote molested him five to 10 times over a period of a few months.
(Victim 3) gave Davenport a similar account, saying that Foote forced him to have oral intercourse.
LaFountain testified that during follow-up interviews, (Victim 2) told him that Foote had given him the cigarettes in exchange for intercourse, but that he stopped when (Victim 2) asked him to.
Foote “told him nobody could know about what they did, that he couldn’t tell anyone,” LaFountain said. “He thought if he said no, Foote would force himself on him.”
District Attorney’s investigator Tom Swisher testified that (Victim 4) told him he felt that if he declined Foote’s advances, he could be in trouble.
Swisher said on cross- examination by Foote’s attorney, Bill Walker, that he considered Foote’s “relative position of power” sufficient to cause duress.
“He knew the disciplinary system,” Swisher said of one of the victims. “He knew if he had problems with staff, he could easily suffer the wrath of that individual.”
(Victim 5) told LaFountain he was 17 at the time of the alleged molestation, and like the others, he felt he had no choice.
LaFountain testified that he became aware of a letter written by that victim in late 2002 recanting any accusations against Foote.
“He said he was told by staff and counselors they didn’t believe him and if he didn’t retract his statement, he might have to stay longer and not be able to see his family,” LaFountain said, adding that the victim now stands by his original allegations.
Heidelberger asked for comments from both Walker and Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Ow regarding issues of force, with Ow citing the fear of retribution and Foote’s age relative to his victims.
The judge found sufficient evidence to hold Foote to answer on all counts, which included lewd act upon a child, aggravated sexual assault on a child, forcible oral copulation, continuous sexual abuse of a child and oral copulation of a person younger than 18.
She also found sufficient evidence for a number of special allegations that include use of force, substantial sexual conduct and aggravated circumstances.
Foote is set to be formally arraigned at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 21. He remains in custody on $5 million bail.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.