Conviction Reversed Based on Insufficient Evidence That Defendant Annoyed or Molested a Child
Defendant Bruce Clotfelter was charged with Penal Code 647.6, the crime of annoying or molesting a child under the age of 18 or an adult whom you believe to be under 18. His case shows how prosecutors can sometimes rely on a defendant’s criminal background as a substitute for proving all the elements of a charge. In this case, the charge against Mr. Clotfelter required that the prosecutor prove:
- The defendant engaged in conduct directed at a child;
- A normal person, without hesitation, would have been disturbed, irritated, offended, or injured by the defendant’s conduct;
- The defendant’s conduct was motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in the child; AND
- The child was under the age of 18 years at the time of the conduct.
Bruce Clotfelter’s History of Child Molestation and Child Annoyance
In the 1980s, Mr. Clotfelter was charged with multiple counts of child molestation and sentenced to 10 years in state prison. After he served his sentence in state prison, he was found to be a sexually violent predator and held in a state hospital until 2007. In 2001, he volunteered to be surgically castrated.
Mr. Clotfelter moved to Napa county and became friends with several members of a local church including a family with a 15 year old son. It was Mr. Clotfelter’s conduct towards this boy that caused him to be charged with PC 647.6. The evidence of Mr. Clotfelter’s sexual interest in the minor was based on emails where he discussed their friendship and where he would sign off by saying “love ya pal,” as well as conversations related to the minor working out and developing his abs. Clotfelter was also charged with annoying or molesting another child he knew from the church by sleeping in a bed with him on a family trip, despite the minor denying that Clotfelter ever touched him or made sexually inappropriate comments.
The appellate court ruled that even though Clotfelter had prior convictions for similar crimes, the conduct in these cases did not rise to the level to convict him. The court held that in order to convict Clotfelter, the evidence would have to show that his conduct was not only irritating to the minors, but also would be objectively irritating to a reasonable person. It held that the conversation about the minors’ abs, taken in context, was not meant to be sexually lewd or obscene. The court further held that Clotfelter’s attorney provided ineffective representation by failing to object to expert witnesses called by the prosecutor who testified that they believed he continued to show a sexual interest in prepubescent boys. The court held that this testimony was both irrelevant and prejudicial and that Clotfelter’s attorney had no strategic reason for failing to object to this testimony.
This case shows that people who are charged with annoying or molesting a child cannot merely be convicted for prior conduct or ambiguous conduct directed at a minor that is not sexual in nature. As importantly this case shows that you can easily be wrongfully convicted of a sex crime if you do not hire experienced sex crime lawyers like the ones who work at Wallin and Klarich.
Contact An Experienced Wallin & Klarich Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged or convicted of a sex crime, contact Wallin & Klarich today. We have a team of sex crimes defense attorneys with over 40 years of experience who are ready to aggressively defend for your rights.
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