Sex Crimes Cases Results

The below case results were obtained by Attorney Tom Pavlinic while working independently as well as jointly with the Group’s local co-counsel. These cases include not-guilty verdicts, dismissed charges and negotiated pleas attained for prior clients who were facing sexual assault or sexual abuse charges. While the future result of your case cannot be predicted, and not all of our cases have had desirable outcomes, we hope that a review of the below cases illustrates the level of sex crimes criminal defense experience that would be brought into your case.

Below are cases involving clients who have consented to Tom’s sharing factual summaries of their cases.

Virginia Client Not Guilty of Aggravated Sexual Battery Against a Minor

State: Virginia
Court: Circuit Court for Louisa County Virginia
Case Name: Commonwealth v C.W.
Lead Counsel: Thomas A. Pavlinic
Co-Counsel: Judson W Collier Jr.
Date: April 09, 2022

Jury Verdict – Not Guilty on All Counts

Our client was found not guilty of aggravated sexual battery after a 3-day jury trial. He was accused of having digitally penetrated his son’s girlfriend’s 11-year-old daughter (complainant) in the early morning hours of April 25, 2020. The stakes in the case were enormous. A conviction for that offense would have resulted in a mandatory life sentence.

The complainant’s mother and our client’s son met in 2018. They had a son together in 2019. He was one-year-old at the time of the alleged offense. The son and mother asked our client to baby-sit for their infant son. Because our client’s wife was out-of-state visiting family, he asked that the complainant also spend the weekend so she could watch her younger brother while our client did work around the house.

The complainant woke up in the middle of the night screaming “Stay away from me. You touched me. I’m not safe. Give me my phone.” Our client immediately got the phone from the charger and handed it to her. She immediately called her mother. She and our client’s son arrived in “13 minutes.”

When the mother entered the house, she walked right by our client, shouting “Don’t say a f—ing word to me.” She then went to her daughter saying “You’re a bad ass. You did exactly what I told you to do. You’re a bad ass. Screw him. Let’s go.”Although the complainant was saying that she had been touched and “it hurt,” she declined to go to the hospital not only that evening, but also the following morning.

Nothing happened for 3 full months. A CPS investigation was opened because of a complaint made against the mother on a different issue, but the alleged abuse was mentioned. When the CPS worker interviewed the mother, she said that her daughter did not say there was any penetration. The following day, CPS set up a medical examination that was normal. The following day, the complainant gave a video-taped interview and described the penetration as “stabbing, burning and like razor blades going inside.”

The trial was scheduled to start in October 2021. However, just a few days before trial the defense learned that the Commonwealth had failed to present Brady evidence. (This is evidence that contradicts allegations made by the complainant or otherwise is helpful to the defense.) We learned from this evidence that 3 witnesses verified that the complainant made statements to them that she denied making when she testified. Of particular evidentiary value was a statement made to the complainant’s cousin that she “thought she was having a nightmare.”

The prosecution presented the testimony of the complainant and her mother. It elected not to present the results of the medical exam that had been conducted at the direction of CPS. The defense capitalized on the omission of this evidence in its closing argument.

The defense presented the testimony of a forensic nurse examiner who testified to the evidence that could have been collected by a timely examination. This would have consisted of the complainant’s narrative, medical history, a physical examination, genital examination, analysis of the hymen, vaginal swabs and tests for potential DNA.

The defense also presented the testimony of the complainant’s cousin and grandmother, who testified about the inconsistent statements that contradicted the complainant’s in-court testimony. Our client’s wife also had contradictory evidence to present.

The client took the witness stand to testify on his own behalf. He was honorably discharged from the Army after 22 years of service and was working for the federal government. He had a clean record and a White House security clearance. He gave his version of the events calmly and effectively.

The jury deliberated for two hours before taking a lunch break. After 30 minutes of post-lunch deliberations, the jury foreman sent a note to the court saying they were dead-locked in their deliberations. The judge announced that there was a substantial division in the the vote. He then brought the jurors back into the courtroom and gave them the Allen charge. This is an instruction that encourages the jurors to listen to their fellow jurors but not to forfeit their own beliefs. 20 minutes later, the jury announced its not-guilty verdict.

Our client endured the humiliation and stress of this indictment for the 20 months between his arrest and the jury’s verdict.

False Child Molestation Charges Dropped Against Our Client, a Former Virginia State Department Official

State: Virginia
Court: Prince William County Circuit Court
Case Name: Commonwealth v Moretti
Lead Counsel: Thomas A. Pavlinic
Co-Counsel: Fernando Villarroel and Mark Branca
Date: January 04, 2022

Result: All Charges Dismissed

https://www.washingtonpost.com/crime-law/2020/05/07/former-top-state-department-official-arrested-child-molestation-charges/

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY FROM ATTORNEY TOM PAVLINIC

I remember vividly meeting Scott Moretti at his home just before Thanksgiving 2019 to discuss these absurd charges. What followed were 2 years of pure hell for him and his family. There were multiple meetings, court hearings and hundreds of hours dedicated to digesting the Commonwealth’s “evidence” and preparing for trial.

As the Post’s article points out, 2 full years before Scott’s arrest, there was evidence this troubled teenager identified her perpetrator. Yet, neither law enforcement nor the prosecutors made any effort to obtain the most definitive evidence in the case. The defense team retained a lawyer in California to secure the hotline records, and we got them just before Christmas 2021. Even our efforts to obtain local records were opposed by the Commonwealth.

A nondisclosure discovery order prevents our detailing the insanity that characterized the blind eye and indifference of prosecutors and the machinations of law enforcement, the teenage complainant her family and her supporters that led to Scott’s false arrest and malicious prosecution. Perhaps these facts and the true story will play out in other arenas.

On Appeal, Maryland Department of Human Services is Directed to Expunge “Indicated Report” of Child Sexual Abuse

State: Maryland
Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings
Case Name: K.L v Prince George’s County Department of Social Services
Lead Counsel: Thomas A. Pavlinic
Administrative Law Judge: Brian Zlotnick
Date: December 27, 2021

Result: Overturned the “Indicated” Finding in Favor of “Ruled-Out”, Expungement Ordered

In Maryland, when the Department of Human Services investigates an allegation of child sexual abuse, it can make findings of “Indicated,” “Unsubstantiated” and “Ruled Out.” In this instance, the assigned social worker inexplicably entered an “Indicated” finding that would be included in its database for future use by the agency or law enforcement. Our client appealed.

The “Indicated” finding was inexplicable because it was based upon the uncorroborated hearsay statements of a 3-year-old child for whom our client was providing babysitting services. One of the child’s parents reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) that their 3-year-old speech-delayed child “communicated” to them that our client scratched him in the anal area with a toothpick.

A significant flaw in the investigation was that the social worker did not take a recorded statement from the 3-year-old, arguing – against its own protocols – this was “not necessary.” Our expert, Leigh D. Hagan, Ph. D, testified at the hearing that the only way to evaluate the credibility of a 3-year-old’s allegations was through a forensically recorded interview.

The 3-year old was examined by an independent pediatrician who testified that redness around the anal area was no indication of abuse, and that it is in fact a common finding in children of such young age. More importantly, when she attempted to interview the child, he made no statement whatsoever of any abuse. The administrative law judge placed great significance on this testimony when he issued his opinion.

Another patently unfair tactic employed in these investigations is to request a statement from the accused without providing any details of what was being alleged. During a conference call that we had with the investigator and the agency’s attorney, we demanded to know what the factual allegations were. None, however, were given. The only accusation was “sexual abuse.” Therefore, the only thing that our client could so in response was “no sexual abuse.”

The client testified that many postings on the internet talked about the unfairness of the DHS investigations. Incredibly, the investigator found “Indicated” abuse because the client had not “satisfactorily refuted the allegations.” That investigator left the Department, and all of our efforts to subpoena her were unsuccessful. In addition, her supervisor testified that she did not know where that social worker was, nor did she want her to testify in the proceedings.

We located her at the Child Advocacy Center in a neighboring county, but no one would open the door for our process server. This backfired on the agency because the administrative law judge was critical of her failure to testify.

The hearing went on over 3 days. During her cross-examination, the child’s mother was shocked to learn that the alleged toothpick scratching was to have taken place when the child’s pants were on – a fact known to the agency throughout the investigation. The judge then took the case under advisement and issued a 19-page decision finding that the Agency did not present credible evidence of abuse, overturned the “Indicated” finding in favor of “Ruled -Out” and ordered that our client’s name be expunged from the system as an abuser.

This case is just another vivid example of the bias and incompetence that taint so many of these CPS investigations. The social workers accept the allegations at face value and set out to prove, not to objectively investigate, them. The only hypothesis that is considered is guilt.

Maryland Juvenile Client Not Involved (Not Guilty) of Sexual Abuse of a Minor

State: Maryland
Court: Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County
Trial Judge: William C. Mulford
Case Name: In the Matter of v. E. B.
Lead Counsel: Thomas A. Pavlinic
Trial Start Date: November 3, 2021

Result: Not Involved (Not Guilty) at Bench Trial

Our then-minor client was accused in juvenile court in 2 separate counties (Calvert and Anne Arundel) of having sexually abused his minor cousin (the complainant) numerous times over 8 years, beginning when she was 5 years old and ending when she was 13. The alleged abuse included oral penetration, digital penetration, touching and the insertion of an object. There was no medical exam or medical evidence.

Procedurally, because the penetration offenses were alleged to have occurred after he turned 16, the State charged our client as an adult in one county and as a juvenile in the other. Two pivotal pretrial defense motions were granted. The first transferred the adult charges back to juvenile court, and the second consolidated the cases into one county. We were also able to obtain pretrial discovery of the complete CPS files and some of the complainant’s therapy records.

Prior to our client’s arrest, the Child Advocacy Center, working with law enforcement, conducted a series of video interviews of the complainant, her parents and sisters. That evidence revealed the complainant participated in family discussion and underwent therapy to help her “recover” memories of abuse. In addition, the abuse was to have occurred at family gatherings only in fully accessible basements at our client’s home as well as at the grandparents’ attended by as many as 12 adults (including the complainant’s parents) and other children (including the complainant’s sisters). No one ever saw any abuse or even had any suspicion of any abuse. This did not stop Child Protective Service and the State from bulling ahead with the charges.

The complainant testified at length about the alleged abuse. Her parents, one sister and the investigating detective also testified for the State. Cross examination and documentary exhibits pointed out numerous contradictions and the implausibility of the accusations. On motion made after the State rested, the court dismissed 4 of the charges: 2 for statute of limitation violations and 2 for lack of sufficient evidence.

The defense called our client, his parents, their grandmother, 2 uncles (one a police officer), his grandmother and 2 independent teenagers who attended many of the gatherings. In addition, we presented a stipulation that the complainant’s younger sister never saw our client and the complainant alone. She told law enforcement in her video interview that her sister and our client’s sister, both the same age, were always together.

During direct examination the complainant testified that she had taken a photo of our client directly after a specific incident of abuse. She was shown the photo and confirmed that it was the photo she took. The defense was able to offer strong evidence that the photo was in fact not taken on the date of alleged conduct.

Although we had an expert on board to talk about a biased investigation and the unreliability of memories recovered in therapy, the court did not feel that testimony was necessary. At the conclusion of the case, the judge meticulously summarized all the evidence and acquitted our client. (Because the case was in juvenile court, a jury trial was not allowed).

Maryland Stepfather Charged with Sexual Abuse of a Minor Found Not Guilty by Jury

State: Maryland
Court: Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County
Trial Judge: Elizabeth S. Morris
Case Name: State v. J.B.
Lead Counsel: Thomas A. Pavlinic
Trial Start Date: October 25, 2021

Result: Jury Verdict – Not Guilty on All Counts

The State charged our client in Maryland with 4 separate offenses related to a single incident which was to have occurred on November 24, 2020: Sexual abuse of a minor, Sexual offense in the third degree, Sexual offense in the fourth degree and Assault in the second degree.

He was alleged to have had sexual contact with his 13-year old stepdaughter (complainant) while watching a movie at their home in Pasadena Maryland when the mother was visiting family in another state. The alleged contact lasted less than a minute. The State’s witnesses at trial were (i) his stepdaughter who testified about the alleged abuse and (ii) his wife, the complainant’s biological mother, who described the disclosure of the abuse as well as her observed changes in complainant’s demeanor and behavior after the alleged abuse. There was no meaningful, objective investigation by Child Protective Services or the police department. This was a classic example of a biased “rush to judgment.”

A key piece of evidence for the defense, a recorded telephone call, was ruled inadmissible. This was a legally recorded phone conversation between our client’s mother and the complainant’s mother made in Colorado. During the call, the complainant’s mother described her doubt as to the validity of the allegations, as well as her knowledge of the complainant’s previous delusional behavior. Although this conversation was recorded legally in Colorado, the court ruled that it did not meet the criteria for admissibility under Maryland’s Wiretap statutes.

Nevertheless, some evidence of the previous delusional behavior was able to be admitted due to recorded CAC (child advocacy center) interviews in which such behavior was discussed. Additionally, the defense was able to expose inconsistencies and contradictions through focused cross-examination of the complainant and her mother. We also described for the jury the implausible nature of the circumstances under which the abuse was alleged to have occurred.

Our client testified and adamantly denied the allegations. He described his positive relationship with his step-daughter, his 10-year career in the United States military and the close interaction he had with the complainant’s mother up to the present time.

Our defense, based on the evidence, was that the complainant had mental difficulties and that the falsely alleged abuse was in fact a product of these difficulties. Furthermore, we introduced evidence that the complainant’s own mother doubted the validity of the allegations.

After deliberating for just 1 hour and 13 minutes, the jury unanimously found our client not guilty of all charges.