Man convicted of 16 sex crimes with children
A former Colusa man was convicted Tuesday on 16 counts of sexual crimes involving seven children, what Colusa County District Attorney John Poyner called “the most disgusting case” he had ever prosecuted.
Jesus “Jesse” Andres Lopez, who turned 39 on Friday, is facing what amounts to a life sentence on a battery of charges that range from performing a lewd act upon a child, oral copulation with a person under 14, sodomy of a disabled person, sodomy of a person under 16, exhibiting harmful material to a minor and two special allegations that alone carry a 30-to-life possibility.
The criminal counts without the special allegations could add up to nearly 60 years, Poyner said.
“This was the most disgusting case I have ever tried,” said Poyner, who was assisted by Deputy District Attorney Brendan Farrell. “I felt sorry for the jury for having to look at and listen to what they did.”
Originally charged with 20 felony counts and three special allegations on June 29, 2011, retired Nevada County Judge Carl Bryan threw out one charge for lack of evidence and the jury could not reach a verdict on three counts.
But after four days of testimony and deliberating close to 10 hours over two days, the jury returned with guilty verdicts on 16 counts about 3 p.m. Tuesday.
Sentencing is set for Sept. 5.
Defense attorney Roberto Marquez said he thought he made his case for reasonable doubt.
“I think, actually, the presentation of evidence went off pretty well for us. I thought we were able to show enough inconsistencies with the prosecution witnesses to establish reasonable doubt,” Marquez said.
“And the jury thought differently.”
Marquez said he thought the overwhelming circumstance of the crimes – the number of victims and where the acts reportedly too place – showed how unlikely they were committed at all.
“I always thought the claims were outlandish ... outrageous,” he said.
“It is hard, as a defense attorney, that a person could believe he would get away with it,” Marquez said.
But Marquez acknowledged the emotional impact of having seven boys parade into a courtroom and tell their stories was difficult on his defense.
Both Poyner and Marquez said they were impressed with jury: The members’ diligence and focus on the case during the trial.
Marquez said he will likely present a motion for a new trial, and within that, ask the judge to review the evidence on his own to see if all the guilty verdicts hold up under his scrutiny.
In the end though, the defense attorney expects Sept. 5 to be difficult on his client.
“Sentencing is going to be ugly because of the multiple victims,” Marquez said.
Poyner said the case actually involved nine children, all between the ages of 10 and 16 at the time of the crimes, but two victims did not participate.
All were Colusa County children, though most have moved out of the area, Poyner said.
Another reported victim, from five years earlier, was used to show a pattern of behavior, but those criminal allegations were not an actual part of the trial.
Interim Colusa police Chief Ross Stark called the verdict “a win for justice.”
The investigation began in April 2011.
“We had a report from one of the juveniles,” Sgt. Josh Fitch said.
Fitch said the victim told investigators the abuse had started in 2009.
“Essentially what happened from that point, we interview them enough to substantiate their claim and then we send it over to the MBIC (Multi-Disciplinary Interview Center) team.
Cindy Deewoody, an investigator out of the District Attorney’s Office, is the leader of that team, and she handled the bulk of the interviews.
Members of other local law enforcement agencies are part of the team.
Fitch said the abuses took place in Lopez’s various residences, and one victim actually lived in the same home.
Fitch said Lopez also was prosecuted on child molestation charges in the past.
In March 2007, he was arraigned on a charge of performing lewd acts on a child, but the case was dismissed prior to going to trial. In May of that same year, he was found not guilty on those charges, court records state.
He twice pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in late 2004, and had a drug possession case dismissed in 2005.