Gainesville criminal lawyer and public defender Anne Watson won a very difficult child molestation trial for her client earlier this week. Her client, Joshua Stewart, had been charged with aggravated child molestation based on allegations that he molested a 4 year old girl he was babysitting. He had spent the last year and seven months in jail because the judge had twice refused to grant him a bond.
The Gainesville Times has the story.
Ms. Watson did an outstanding job of representing her client. She obtained a medical expert to rebut the State’s medical expert, and focused on problems with the forensic interviews and protocols followed by law enforcement. Apparently, there was also a delayed “outcry” and some inconsistent statements made by the alleged victim. But the case was especially difficult to win because the State had introduced evidence of a supposed similar transaction – another molestation allegation involving an 8 year old child.
Child molestation cases are very difficult to defend. Once a child claims to have been molested, law enforcement and child protective services like DFACS are sometimes quick to jump to conclusions without really considering all the evidence and the credibility of the person reporting the incident.
Had Mr. Stewart been convicted, he would have served a minimum of 10 years in prison. More likely, he would have been sentenced to 20 or 30 years. Had the crime been committed this year and he was convicted, the mandatory minimum would have been 25 years. It is obviously a very serious charge. But that doesn’t mean he did it.
Child molestation is a tragic crime, and it certainly does occur in our society. People who abuse children sexually also deserve harsh punishment. But our firm has seen more than our fair share of people falsely charged with this offense.
Fortunately, we have been able to help several of our clients get these allegations dismissed prior to indictment by re-investigating the case with our investigators, forensic and medical experts and polygraph examiners. Once we prepare a solid defense, we often try to convince the prosecutor not to pursue the charges. In the few cases that do go to trial, we have been successful in wining acquittals through extensive pretrial preparation.
Congratulations to Ms. Watson and her obviously relieved client. We are encouraged that the jury held the State to their burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.