Toddler a victim on many levels
It’s easy to see how Grass Valley police investigators are a little upset these days. Talk to any cop and he’ll tell you that the worst part of the job is handling cases where children are victims.
That’s the case with a 6-year-old boy whose dad admitted to police that he sodomized him “no more than 12 times and no less than three times” in a several-month period between Jan. 1, 2004, through Feb. 23, 2005.
The then-17-year-old father (yes … he was 13 when he fathered his son) also told police that it was an “accident” whenever he did sodomize his then-4-year-old son and that he’d check him in the morning to make sure there was no damage. He said he even took him to the doctor, just to make doubly sure. Now that’s parental care at its finest.
The father, Jesse Rider, was originally charged with four counts of sexual abuse, including one charge of continuous sexual abuse of a child and three counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, causing psychological harm.
The allegations were reported to the San Joaquin Child Protective Services by the boy’s mother in February 2005. The parents are estranged (he lives here and she lives in Stockton) and had been sharing custody of the boy. The two would meet in Sacramento and make the child hand-off every other weekend.
It might be good to stop here and take a closer look at the world the little boy was delivered into back in March of 2001. His father was 14 and his mother was 15, roughly the ages of my own two children at home, who went trick or treating last week. You could argue that the little boy’s chances from the very beginning weren’t good without intervention. The courts had determined that both parents (they were never married) ought to share him, which is why they met in Sacramento to make the weekend swap.
The courts today generally believe that the child is always better off with his parents, even if they are 14 and 15 years old and barely capable of caring for themselves.
I knew a woman who wouldn’t let me buy one of her puppies until I could demonstrate that my home was adequate. But those are pets, not children, right?
Grass Valley police investigators first interviewed the young father in late April 2005. “While asking (the father) several questions about himself, he was being somewhat sarcastic,” read the report from that interview. “When I asked about his eye color he responded brown, and brown ‘full of shÐ Ð.’ He said that is what his parents told him to say if anyone asked.”
That’s also parenting at its finest. “If anyone ever asks you to describe your eyes, son, tell them they are the color of shÐ Ð.”
The little boy’s mother told investigators she’d also been abused as a child and recognized the signs (bed wetting, etc.).
During the interview, Rider told investigators that he and the boy’s mother split up after he discovered she’d had an affair with his best friend. “I kicked her out of my house,” he said. He said he kept the boy and told the boy’s mother that she had a drug problem, and that he didn’t want her to come near the boy until she was “cleaned up.”
So now we have a baby boy whose teen mother was forced to leave him because she had an alleged drug problem. His chances just keep getting better and better.
The courts, meanwhile, reportedly re-arranged the custody agreements several times. At one point the two teen parents traded custody of the baby boy every other month. “She (the mother) took me back to court because (the son) would come back to me after a month and he wouldn’t know who I am and the same with (the boy’s mother),” Rider told investigators.
In the middle of this wonderful arrangement, Rider’s house burned down, so he asked the boy’s mother to keep the boy until he could find a place to live.
In June of 2005, Rider was given a polygraph test. “At the end of the examination, it was clear that Jesse had lied about his sexual conduct with (his son),” read the report. “(The inspector) confronted Jesse with the fact that he had lied on his Polygraph examination. He told him that the questions pertaining to him sexually assaulting his son was where he lied and that he needed to tell the truth about what happened.”
Rider then told the investigator that it was possible that he’d sodomized his son while they slept together but that “it was an accident when it happened.”
“I asked Jesse to estimate how many times he (sodomized) his son,” continued the report. “Jesse thinks that it may have happened no more than 12 times and no less than three times in the 18 months that he last saw (his son).”
In spite of that confession, which Rider’s attorney says his client was “coerced” into making, the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office dropped the charges in a plea agreement. Rider will now be sentenced in December on child endangerment.
Deputy District Attorney Charles O’Rourke said a 2004 Supreme Court ruling has made it more difficult to prosecute crimes involving young victims. That’s mostly because the 6-year-old boy would have to testify in court and would have difficulty recalling what happened when he was 4.
In other words, toddlers are free game?
Police investigators were obviously upset by the D.A.’s decision because they had spent months on the investigation and felt they had a solid case – maybe because they had a confession from the boy’s father, who admitted assaulting the boy as many as a dozen times “accidentally.”
There’s a notion that our local judicial system is soft on criminals. That if you want to do a crime, this is the place to do it.
Statistics don’t exactly dispel that notion. In 2004-05, there were 788 felony filings in Nevada County, according to the Judicial Council of California. An estimated 38 percent (303) of those resulted in a felony conviction and another 18 percent (139) were reduced to misdemeanors. The statewide felony conviction rate is 47 percent.
As we go to the polls today to elect another judge (Ray Shine and Tom Anderson have waged spirited judicial race campaigns), it might be good to ask which candidate will be the toughest on criminals, in spite of the “sentencing guidelines” that most judges say handcuff their ability to be tough.
At the same time, let’s encourage the D.A.’s office to be more aggressive in its efforts to protect our community and our children from men who might “accidentally” sodomize them.
Jeff Ackerman is the publisher of The Union. His column appears on Tuesdays. Contact him at 477-4299, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley 95945.
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