Thursday, May 17, 2012 · by Tamara Aparton
San Francisco, CA — A man who broke up a squabble between his son and a female cousin by grabbing the girl above her waist was acquitted of child sexual abuse, San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi announced today.
A jury deliberated only two hours Tuesday afternoon before acquitting San Francisco grocery store worker Angel Garcia, 32, of three counts of lewd acts upon a child. If convicted, he faced up to 10 years in prison and a lifetime of registration as a sex offender, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Carmen Aguirre.
Garcia’s troubles began Dec. 10 after his 6-year-old son and the boy’s 12-year-old cousin, who lived in the same flat with multiple family members, began fighting over a new video game. Garcia grabbed the girl on her sides, several inches above her waist, and pulled her off his son, Aguirre said. Garcia’s longtime girlfriend walked into the living room at that moment and became concerned that Garcia may have been touching the girl inappropriately.
“Mr. Garcia and his girlfriend were having relationship problems and there was incredible tension between them. Her mental state was so compromised by all the fighting and jealousy that she was feeling like she didn’t even know this man who had been her boyfriend for eight years,” Aguirre said. “In this highly charged environment, there was a misunderstanding that the little girl had been sexually victimized.”
The girlfriend later reported it to her therapist, who alerted police. The girl told police investigators that Garcia had touched her inappropriately over her clothing on two other occasions.
During the nine day trial, both the girl and Garcia took the stand. A psychologist specializing in trauma testified to the suggestibility of children’s developing brains and the tendency of children to avoid contradicting a trusted adult by adopting the adult’s version of events, Aguirre said.
Although Garcia, who has no criminal record, was found not guilty on all charges, Aguirre called the case “a tragedy all around.”
“Mr. Garcia spent six months in jail and his family is now fractured,” she said. “The little girl had to go through the traumatic experience of testifying and being cross-examined in front of a jury. She was a victim – not of what the prosecution claimed, but of being ensnared in an adult situation she had nothing to do with creating.”
Adachi said the jury made the right decision.
“Fortunately for Mr. Garcia, his public defender was able to show in court that the charges were untrue and the jury saw the truth in this case,” he said.