(California Penal Code §§ 243.4, 261, 261.5, 288(a) P.C., 288.4, 290, 311.11, 314 P.C., 647(j)(4) P.C., et seq.)
Sex crimes cover a vast array of criminal charges, ranging from someone exposing himself all the way up to forcible rape. Regardless of the specific nature of the crime, sexual offenses typically involve the defendant’s non-consensual sexual contact with the victim.
The consequences of a sex-crime conviction can haunt you for the rest of your life. Mandatory lifetime registration as a sex offender, for starters, can trigger prison time if you ever fail to follow all the required procedures whenever you move to a new place or visit for an extended period. Also, anyone will be able to immediately ascertain your status as a registered sex offender by accessing certain public databases, thereby eliminating your privacy and peace of mind.
In our practice, sex crimes break down into four distinct categories: (1) crimes involving minors (previously known or unknown to the defendant); (2) crimes involving adults known to the defendant; (3) those concerning adults not previously known to the defendant; and (4) crimes that do not directly involve others, such as possession of child pornography. Many of these offenses apply to multiple categories, such as oral copulation (§ 288(a) P.C.), rape (§ 261 P.C.), and sexual battery (§ 243.4 P.C.).
If we had to choose a fifth category, it would include all other miscellaneous sex offenses and related charges, the most common of which is probably failing to register as a sex offender (§ 290 P.C.), as well as more recently codified criminal offenses like revenge porn (§ 647(j)(4) P.C.).
In many cases, the prosecutor has discretion to charge you with either a felony or a misdemeanor (known as a “wobbler” offense).
Criminal Sex-Crime Allegations Regarding Minors
Most of our cases involving minors (i.e., individuals under eighteen years of age) have to do with allegations that our clients molested a minor related to him or her in some way (lewd acts with a child (§ 288(a) P.C.), or involved statutory rape (§ 261.5 P.C.).
Sex Crimes Directed at Strangers
These offenses range from relatively benign, such as publicly exposing yourself (indecent exposure, § 314 P.C.), and soliciting sex workers (prostitution, § 647(b) P.C.), all the way up to sexual battery (§ 243.4 P.C.), or that our clients solicited minors online for “meet-ups” (i.e., sexual encounters – meeting up with a minor, § 288.4 P.C.). In the latter scenario, the “minor” online is typically a sex-crimes detective posing as a female teenager.
However, on at least several occasions, we have also defended juveniles (again, persons – typically males – under age eighteen) accused of committing sexual acts against other juveniles.
Possession of Child Pornography (§ 311.11 P.C.)
This is certainly one of the most common sex crime cases we defend, and typically concerns the downloading of sexual images of minors.
Examples of Misdemeanor Sex Crimes
In mid-December 2019, police arrested Alameda County sheriff's deputy and Castro Valley resident Jason Deitschman, and charged him with misdemeanor child molestation for allegedly sending explicit text messages and inappropriately touching a fifteen-year-old. The sheriff’s department placed him on administrative leave pending the results of his criminal case. According to a spokesman for the department’s Special Victims Unit, Deitschman had under investigation for several months after detectives received screen shots from the victim that showed the explicit text messages. They also claimed that in June 2019, Deitschman gave the victim a back rub during which he fondled her.
In early March 2004, actor Paul Rubens – best known for his “Pee-Wee Herman” character on the TV series Pee-Wee’s Playhouse – was sentenced to three years’ probation after pleading guilty to misdemeanor possession of obscene materials with intent to distribute after certain photos were seized from his home. That raid, which occurred in November 2001, resulted in the police allegedly seizing 30,000 images. One of his probation terms required him to avoid unsupervised contact with minors during the probationary period. He was also required to pay a $100 fine, attend one year of counseling, and register as a sex offender during the probationary period. If he had gone to trial and lost, he would have faced a maximum of one year in jail.
In 1988, then-struggling/unknown actor Brad Pitt (born William Bradley Pitt) allegedly mooned passing drivers on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu during a break filming a straight-to-video film called Cutting Class. A mother and her daughter allegedly passed him in their car as he mooned them, causing them to stop at the local sheriff’s station and report him. As a result, he was cited (but not arrested) for misdemeanor indecent exposure. After hiring a lawyer, Pitt was eventually able to get the charged reduced to an infraction for disturbing the peace, for which he paid a relatively small fine.
Examples of Felony Sex Crimes
In early January 2020, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that disgraced former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was being charged with four felony sex offenses under California law. (This was the same day that Weinstein’s New York state criminal trial on unrelated sex-crime charges began in Manhattan.) The DA’s Office had previously submitted the matter to a grand jury, which issued an indictment against Weinstein for these four new charges. These recent charges stemmed from a mid-February 2013 incident in which a woman allegedly claimed Weinstein had forcibly raped her in her own Beverly Hills hotel room at night following a film festival in Hollywood. According to this “Jane Doe 1”, that night Weinstein allegedly pounded on her hotel door until she let him in, at which time he forced her to orally copulate him before he raped her. She then allegedly claimed that he also threatened her to not report the alleged rape to anyone, including police, and that this is why she had not come forward earlier. (Therefore, he could also be charged with a fifth felony for making criminal threats with special circumstances for intimidating a potential witness in a criminal action.) According to the indictment, he also sexually assaulted a second woman in mid-February 2013 in a West Los Angeles hotel room following the pretense of a business meeting. As a result, he was now facing a single count of forcible rape, a single count of forcible oral copulation, one count of sexual penetration by use of force, and one count of sexual battery by restraint. He faced a maximum of twenty-eight years in state prison.
In mid-October 2019, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Los Angeles charged four defendants – two owners (Michael J. Pratt and Matthew I. Wolfe) and two employees (producer/actor Ruben A. Garcia and administrative assistant Valorie Moser) of two popular websites – with felony sex-trafficking charges for allegedly luring numerous vulnerable women under false pretenses to allow themselves to be filmed performing various sex acts. According to the USA’s Office, the women were told that the film would not be posted online, but that the defendants did exactly that, grossing more than $17 million from their paying subscribers. The defendants were charged with sex trafficking by force, fraud, coercion, conspiracy to commit sex trafficking by force, conspiracy to commit fraud, and conspiracy to commit coercion. Each faced a maximum life sentence in federal prison. The first three charges came with a minimum fifteen-year penalty. Federal prisoners must serve a minimum of eighty-five percent of their sentence, even with good behavior.
In 2019, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office charged San Jose resident and University of Nebraska Cornhuskers’ football champion Maurice Washington III with felony revenge porn. The DA alleged that Washington texted the victim a homemade sex video he had taken of her as an underage girlfriend, and that he did so to retaliate against her. (The two had dated when they were both seniors at the same high school.) Specifically, he was charged with one felony count of child pornography and one misdemeanor count of distributing pornography for the purpose of causing emotional distress. According to the local sheriff’s department, the purported victim had reached out to Washington to congratulate him on his football scholarship, but when she rejected his subsequent online advances, he took retaliatory action, including eventually distributing the video their former high school classmates. (One of the recipients was later prosecuted in juvenile court for downloading the video.) Washington was cut from the football team for these reasons in January 2020.
In mid-December 2019, Fred Beverly allegedly broke into a home in East Oakland during the early morning hours and robbed & raped a seventy-five-year-old woman. He also allegedly stole $400 in cash, plus some jewelry from her. During a search of his residence one block away, police allegedly found the stolen cash and jewelry. Beverly was arrested on numerous charges, including forcible rape and first-degree residential burglary, both which carry the special circumstances of a violent crime committed against a vulnerable person and a violent crime committed during the commission of a robbery. He is also reportedly a three-time convicted felon, including for second-degree burglary, which presented a third potential sentencing enhancement. As a result, Beverly faced life in prison if convicted.
On December 12, 2019, the San Mateo County DA’s Office announced that a former San Francisco International Airport customs official (U.S. Customs and Border Protection), Scott M. Inouye, had been sentenced to twelve months in the county jail, as well as three years of probation. In November 2019, he had reportedly been convicted of three felony counts of filming without consent for allegedly secretly filming sexual encounters with his then-female-co-worker. Other punishments included a lifetime ban from working as a federal or state law enforcement officer, a firearms ban, a victim stay-away order, counseling, and a fifteen-hundred-dollar fine He was arrested one month after the victim reported her suspicions of being videotaped to San Bruno police.
Defending Sex-Crime Charges
The defenses to sex-offense prosecutions are as varied as the underlying charges themselves. For starters, the key to challenging a charge for meeting up with a minor requires you to prove that you did not take an active step towards actually meeting up with the alleged victim.
Sentencing for Sex Crimes
Just as with defenses, so too are sentencing terms varied – again, depending on the specific plea and/or conviction. For example, certain felony convictions carry life sentences, while some misdemeanors can put you in county jail for up to one year.
You could also face lifetime registration as a sex offender, which, again, would enable the general public to ascertain your information on certain websites, including your residential address.
All non-prison sentences will also include probation terms of either three or five years (usually formal probation, which requires you to regularly meet in person with your probation officer, and possibly submit to random drug testing).
Other terms include ten-year or lifetime bans regarding firearms, protective orders (requiring you to avoid the victim, including a family member), and so on.
Psychological counseling is also typical for these types of cases, as well as community service, fines, etc.
How Ninaz Saffari Began Defending People Accused of Sex Crimes
Ninaz gained extraordinary experience in defending sex crimes while working as a Deputy PD for LA County. Then, when she went private, this practice area became a particular specialty almost by accident. She took on a client who was facing a life sentence for a sexual offense – for which he had already served many months in DTLA’s Twin Towers jail facility when she took over the case.
After eventually exonerating her client of all of the most serious charges against him, he was released from jail – much to the amazement of his fellow inmates in the (alleged) sex-offender wing. As a result, these individuals began collect-calling Ninaz to represent them on their own cases, and so this “specialty” took off from there.
A Few of Our Past Sex-Crime Cases:
“The South Bay Rapist” case – facing two life sentences – day of trial: all charges dismissed
People v. Corey Stewart: By the time he had hired us in early 2014, Corey had spent fourteen months in jail (and without seeing the sun even once during that entire time) after being falsely accused of forcible rape by two women. As a result, he was facing not one, but two life sentences. And because both charges were strike offenses, if convicted, he would almost certainly have died in prison. But by the end of our initial consultation (in jail), we were absolutely convinced that Corey was innocent. The South Bay media outlets disagreed, and Corey’s face was plastered across the front page of the local newspapers with the nickname “the South Bay rapist”. So when Corey hired us, we hit the ground running. We hired more than half-a-dozen experts to testify at the jury trial – each of whom would be able to refute the DA’s allegations. With the help of our GPS expert witness, we were able to prove that the primary accuser had flagrantly lied to police about where she had supposedly been with our client at the time she was supposedly raped by him. On the day before the jury trial was to start, we received documentation showing that based on the primary accuser’s cell-tower pings, she could not possibly have been anywhere near what she claimed was the scene of the crime. We immediately provided this documentation to the DA, as well as evidence taken from the secondary accuser’s social-media accounts, which clearly supported Corey’s innocence. After providing this overwhelming and irrefutable evidence, the detectives re-interviewed the primary accuser, who suddenly – and for the first time ever – spun them an entirely new story with entirely different facts. As a result, the following morning – on the first day of trial – the DA dismissed with prejudice (meaning they could not re-try him) all charges. To this day, we still keep in touch with Corey and his parents, who supported him and believed in his innocence from day one.
Client facing life for gang rape of minor & kidnapping – after prelim, all felonies dismissed
People v. J.C.: Our client was facing a life sentence after being charged with a dozen felony counts, including kidnapping, sexual assault, and gang rape of a minor. We were able to obtain a videotape of the incident that proved the accuser had been lying about the entire incident. At the preliminary hearing, we cross-examined the accuser and forced her to repeat every single lie she had made to the detectives and prosecutor. We then played the videotape disproving every one of those lies. We also filed a motion proving that the necessary elements to obtain a rape conviction could not possibly be met based on the lack of evidence. Following the hearing, the DA’s Office dismissed all the felony charges, and allowed our client to accept a plea offer for a single misdemeanor for unlawful consensual sex with a minor. He was credited for time served in the county jail while awaiting trial and, therefore, was released several days later. As a direct result of our efforts, our client’s five co-defendants (three young men and two teenage boys) also had all of their charges dismissed.
Two counts forcible rape/strikes – 47 years – after 2 jury trials, reduced to misdemeanor, no jail
People v. R.T.: Our client was facing up to forty-seven years in prison after being charged with two counts of forcible rape with each one charged as a strike offense. Even worse, he had made numerous statements to police which the DA’s Office misconstrued as a confession and, therefore, they saw this as a slam-dunk prosecution. But because he was innocent, our client refused to accept any type of deal, regardless of how favorable. So we tried the case before a jury and put on multiple medical experts who testified that there was insufficient DNA evidence for anyone to determine guilt. We also repeatedly impeached the accuser with her own contradictory prior statements that she had made to the police, as well as her inconsistent testimony during the preliminary hearing. We ended up getting a hung jury with half of the jurors finding our client guilty and the other half finding him not guilty. As a result, the DA dragged our client through a second jury trial, during which we again impeached the supposed victim – but this time we also challenged her with her inconsistent testimony from the first trial. The second trial was going so badly for the prosecution that they made an offer that even our innocent client couldn’t resist: a single misdemeanor for sexual battery with no jail time, and with no mandatory registration.
Lewd acts on a minor, facing ten years – knocked down to unlawful sex w/ minor, no more jail
People v. J.G.: Our client was facing a dozen felony counts for lewd acts against a minor and was looking at a decade in a penitentiary. His prior lawyer did absolutely nothing aside from needlessly continuing the case for almost a year – despite the fact that the client had been incarcerated for that entire time (and making monthly payments to the lawyer during that entire time). After we were retained, we quickly moved to have the entire case dismissed based on the fact that our client’s Constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated (based on the grounds that both the judge and prosecutor had failed to move the case along as required by law). After arguing the motion over the course of two or three hearings, and after we set the case for a jury trial and announced that we were ready to immediately proceed with trial, the DA’s Office dropped all charges, dismissed the case in its entirety, and released our client from jail. We convinced the prosecutor to knock the plea offer down to a single count of unlawful sex with a minor with zero additional jail time. We accomplished all of this less than sixty days after the client hired us.
Client investigated for sexual battery – result: DA’s Office decided not to pursue charges
People v. JK: Our client hired us to do a Pre-File investigation & negotiation after he had been investigated by LASD sex-crimes detectives who believed he had assaulted an employee of a WeHo hotel while they were both in his hotel room. (The client was visiting from the East Coast at the time of the incident, and the employee was part of the house-cleaning staff.) We first met with the lead detective and provided ample proof that our client had not actually assaulted the woman, and that the incident had resulted from a misunderstanding between the client and the accuser. In addition, we provided the detective with polygraph results that supported our client’s version of events. As a result, the detective agreed with us that our client should not be prosecuted. Next, we met with the Assistant DA who was preparing to file a criminal complaint against our client, and he, too, ultimately agreed with the detective after reviewing our documentation. The prosecutor rejected the case and our client returned home with his wife.
Client investigated for sexual battery – result: prosecutor declined to file case
People v. D.R.: This was another Pre-File case where the client was also being investigated for sexual battery – this time by LAPD detectives. As before, we worked closely with our private investigator to collect as much evidence as we could find that proved our client was innocent. We met with the two LAPD investigators who, after reviewing our evidence, did a complete about-face and contacted the prosecuting attorney to tell him that they had made a mistake and that our client should never have been arrested. Fortunately, the Assistant District Attorney agreed and decided not to pursue the case. Our client was cleared.
Facing felony for failure to register as a sex offender – result: knocked down to a misdemeanor
People v. W.S.: Our client was facing two separate felonies for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender and was facing the likelihood of substantial prison time. What made this case particularly challenging was the fact that it was being prosecuted in the Norwalk courthouse, which has a reputation for tough-on-crime judges, DA’s, and juries. The client hired us after firing his prior defense counsel who was unable to convince the DA’s Office to offer anything better than twenty-four months in prison. The first thing we did was bring our private investigator on board to help us conduct a thorough and meticulous investigation of all of the important facts, including interviewing and taking sworn statements from multiple witnesses. After meeting with and providing the investigative results to the prosecuting attorney’s supervisor, and convincing him that the state’s witnesses had contradicted themselves in different statements they had previously provided to the authorities, the DA’s Office made us an offer that was too good to pass up: a single month in jail and a reduction to a misdemeanor.