DA seeks life term in lewd acts case
A man arrested in 2017 on accusations of sexual misconduct with a girl under 10 could spend life in prison after being convicted last week, Nevada County prosecutors say.
Louis Ray Woodward, 57, of Tahoe City, was found guilty on multiple felony counts related to accusations that he sexually molested a girl in Nevada County between 2001-2002. The defendant was formally convicted on two counts of oral copulation/sexual penetration with a child and two counts of lewd acts with a child, according to District Attorney Jesse Wilson.
At Woodward’s sentencing hearing, set for Sept. 24, Wilson will ask a Nevada County Superior Court judge to impose the maximum sentence possible given the defendant’s crimes — life in prison.
“Given the facts and the evidence that defendant has sexually abused two victims, and the conduct went on for a substantial period of time, I will be asking that the maximum sentence be imposed,” Deputy District Attorney Helenaz Hill said in an email.
The typical sentencing range for someone convicted on these counts is anywhere between 30 years to life in prison plus additional time, the prosecutor noted.
Woodward had previously been acquitted in a 2019 trial on a charge of continuous sexual abuse that was also related to the case. However, the jury in that case could not reach a decision as to the other charges against Woodward, and the District Attorney’s Office successfully pushed for a retrial on the outstanding charges.
But that retrial was in turn repeatedly delayed, as the COVID-19 pandemic hampered the case’s progress in court for well over a year, and significant turnover in personnel at the District Attorney’s Office also delayed Woodward’s retrial, according to Wilson. In addition to the departures earlier this year of both former District Attorney Cliff Newell and former Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh, the case’s original prosecutor, Ed Grubaugh, left the District Attorney’s Office in 2019, which further slowed down the resolution of Woodward’s case.
Wilson credited Hill, the case’s current prosecutor, as well as other law enforcement officials and personnel with his office’s success in procuring a conviction in the trial.
“There were several factors that contributed to the delay of the case resolution including the involvement of several different prosecutors and the pandemic,” Wilson said.
“However, with the continued hard work of law enforcement, district attorney investigators, victim advocates and DDA Hill, justice was finally obtained.”
Woodward’s defense attorney, David Laurence Montgomery, could not be reached for comment.
Cases involving the sexual abuse of minors hold an especially high priority for the District Attorney’s Office, given the tremendous trauma such crimes cause the victims as well as the damage these offenses cause to the community at large, Wilson added.
“Sexual abuse of minors is one of the most abhorrent crimes inflicted upon our community. Anytime we can hold an individual accountable for the trauma they cause a child and help offset the danger they pose to other children is significant,” the district attorney said.
“Our office’s thoughts are with the victim and their family and we hope that the jury’s decision provides some semblance of closure and helps the healing process.”
Woodward was originally charged in 2017 with having sexually abused a girl in Nevada County, where he lived at the time, for almost a year. Prosecutors also alleged that Woodward had molested a second girl sometime before 2014, although he was not convicted on charges related to that accusation, Wilson said.
Montgomery, Woodward’s defense attorney, had argued during the first trial in 2019 that police had not properly investigated the case when charges were filed. The defense attorney also said that at least one of the victims appeared to have been “coached” in regard to the statements that she made to investigators about what Woodward had done to her.
Nevada County authorities had been investigating Woodward in connection with the charges since 2014, Wilson said.
Woodward will remain in custody at the Nevada County Jail until his sentencing hearing next month, per jail records.
Stephen Wyer is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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