An 18-year-old is facing up to 10 years in prison for allegedly taking photographs and touching a 7-year-old girl at a play center in Belmont, California.
Tavi Benelli works at the Pump It Up Bounce House. On April 1, the girl came to the business for a birthday party. Benelli is alleged to have asked the girl to come into a private room for a bandage on a scratch. While she was in the room, Benelli allegedly asked her to jump up and down. While she did, he took several photos with his phone. He then reportedly touched the girl on her buttocks, claiming he was brushing away a dead insect.
The child’s nanny called the police, who waited for Benelli to return to work. When they asked to see his phone, Benelli allegedly began deleting photos. Several of the photos of the child were recovered in the phone’s deleted files.
Benelli has plead not guilty to charges of possession of child pornography, attempting to destroy evidence, using a minor for sexual gratification, and lewd or lascivious acts against a minor under the age of 14. This last crime is the one we will explore here.
Lewd or Lascivious Act with a Child (PC § 288)
To prove Benelli is guilty under Penal Code section 288(a), the prosecutor must prove all of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- He touched, on purpose, the child’s body either on the bare skin or through the clothing; OR
- He “committed the act with the intent of arousing, appealing to, or gratifying the lust, passions, or sexual desires of himself/herself or of the child;” and
- The child victim was under the age of 14 years at the time of the touching.Unlike statutory rape, lewd acts do not require sexual intercourse. The crime is committed merely by touching the alleged victim (or causing them to touch the perpetrator or another person), and the touch need not even be against bare skin.
The difficult element to prove in this case may be that Benelli committed the act with the intent of sexually gratifying himself. For that, the prosecution must show evidence that goes to his intent. In a case like this, such evidence might take the form of statements from the child, nanny, or other persons who witnessed the encounter. If those statements were sexually suggestive, it could go toward showing his intent. There may also be video evidence of the encounter from the business’s own security systems, or other physical evidence that suggests Benelli’s intent.
Possible Punishments for Violating PC § 288(a)
Benelli is considered an adult at the age of 18. This means the crime can be charged as a felony. For a felony charge under Penal Code section 288(a), he faces:
- Imprisonment in the state prison for up to eight years; and
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
- Registration as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290.
The Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Can Help
If you or someone you care about is charged under Penal Code Section 288(a), a serious legal challenge lies ahead. Hiring an experienced sex crimes defense attorney as soon as possible can be your best chance at beating this charge. At Wallin & Klarich, we have been successfully defending clients like you for over 35 years. We have the knowledge, skill, and persistence needed to fight these charges, and we are dedicated to delivering the best possible outcome to your child’s case. Contact us today for a free, no obligation phone consultation.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego, West Covina, Torrance, and Victorville, there is an experienced and skilled Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you are located.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.