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The Case of the Ford Focus

by Bruce McEwen, December 23, 2010

Before the child molester put his victim and her mother out of his house, the mother of the victim said they wouldn’t press charges against him if he’d give them a car, a cheap old car, a Ford Focus. They were desperate. The car would at least get them out of the rain.

But the molester figured, Why should I give them anything? I can refute anything they say about me, and my dad, dear old dad, went out and got me a good lawyer, a lawyer from Irvine.

And the whole sordid show went to trial.

Just before the trial, the Deputy DA of Mendocino County, Ms. Shannon Cox offered Timothy Ryan Jr. 29, of Willits, nine years in the state pen if he’d plead guilty to spare his victim from the humiliation of describing what Ryan had done to her to a courtroom full of strangers. The evidence against Ryan Jr. would put him away for a lot longer if he didn’t take the plea deal.

Again Ryan Jr. refused, confident that the “bitches,” as he described his accusers, could never put him away. After all, he had his lawyer from Irvine and he had his Dad to testify for him about the Ford Focus and the other lies the “bitches” had told about him.

So, Ryan Jr. went to trial, and Ryan Jr. lost.

The jury saw right through him to the 13-year-old girl he’d raped.

The courtroom was crowded for Ryan Jr.’s  sentencing. Most of the people there wanted to see Ryan get it.

And he got it, big time.

Timothy Ryan, Jr. He was expecting to get maybe nine years, max, but he’ll do 14 years in the state pen, a little more than one year for each of the 13 years the girl had been alive when Ryan Jr. began violating her.

Mr. John Feiner of Irvine, Ryan Jr.’s lawyer, asked Judge Michael Byrne for nine years for all three counts, but the prosecutor, Deputy DA Shannon Cox, wanted more.

Before the trial, The People had offered Ryan Jr. a chance to take the nine years to spare the girl fresh humiliation.

“He chose not to,” Ms. Cox said. “And Katy had to relive everything he put her through no less than three times. And so the People urge — strongly urge — the court to follow the probation report in order to protect Katy.”

The probation report had recommended that Ryan Jr. get the max because he not only showed no remorse he said he was innocent.

“Not once has he admitted what he did to a 13 year-old girl,” the prosecutor said, adding, “A final objective I’d like to cite is to protect other people. The defendant has bragged that he would do this again.”

Cox said Ryan Jr. knew the girl, his stepdaughter, had been molested before and figured he could take his own turn at her. But mainly, he knew Katy was frightened that if she said anything she and her mother would be homeless again.

“And this in fact turned out to be the case. As for the planning and sophistication, he waited until her mother was absent and gave her marijuana—”

Mr. Feiner objected, but Judge Byrne, a visiting judge, made him wait.

Ms. Cox continued: “He essentially lulled Tamara [Katy’s mother] into a false sense of security. And as to the increasing seriousness of his crimes, he recently went to southern California and pled to drug and weapon charges. Two of the counts in this case were based on full sexual intercourse with the victim, and he was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt — and Tamara and Katy did have to move. They were made homeless and had to live in a tent.”

Tamara came forward. She had something to say:

“I thought that if I was good enough to be a parent to his child, I could trust him to help me parent my child.”

Tamara had moved in with Ryan and was working at Applebee’s in Ukiah.

“Over time I built up that trust in him with her. I’d say, ‘I’m going to the store, can I leave Katy with you?’ and after a while I thought I could trust him. But he took that trust and twisted it and then lied about it. My daughter came forward and told me about what he’d done to her.”

Tamara turned to face Ryan, “To be that calculating and cunning!”

Then she choked up and blurted: “You’re not a man — you’re nothing — and I hope you rot for what you did to her. I hope you suffer — for as many years as they give you!”

Tim Ryan, Sr. got up to try to save his son from spending the next 14 years in state prison.

“In my heart I do not believe he’s guilty,” Dad said. “Tamara told him if he’d give her the Ford Focus, she’d—”

“Objection, your honor,” Ms. Cox said.

Judge Byrne Ryan Sr., “I don’t need comments on the trial. As far as whether the defendant is guilty or not, that has all been decided by the jury.”

Dad tried again, this time saying Tamara had made a habitual liar out of Katy.

“Objection.”

“Sustained.”

“The drugs and alcohol in that house were atrocious!”

“Objection.”

“Sustained.”

“I don’t believe Timothy was guilty”

“Objection.”

“Sustained.”

Judge Byrne had to keep reminding Dad that his son had been found guilty by the jury. The trial was over. Was there anything Dad could think of to make the judge go light on his son?

“Timothy has drug and alcohol dependencies. I’d like to see him get into Delancy Street. I don’t think he’s going to show remorse because he didn’t do the crime…”

Delancy Street is a rehab center in San Francisco. It’s for people who continue to use drugs and alcohol after being put on probation. As for a father who gives his son his own name, it’s to be expected he would be reluctant to think the worst of the lad, regardless of what a jury had decided. The only thing the judge was looking for at this stage was remorse. The Ryans seemed unaware of the concept.

Mr. Feiner said, “There’s no evidence that my client was a pedophile, that he seeks out children and molests them. He knows he should never have put himself in this position and he’ll be a different man when he gets out.”

Feiner was right about that. Ryan Jr. will be different when he gets out.

Ms. Cox asked Katy if she wanted to say anything. At first she shook her head no, but then changed her mind.

She apologized to the judge for not having thought of what she might say, and he reassured her that if she wanted to speak he wanted her to speak.

“We had to go homeless for two years because of what happened to me,” she said. “Because I didn’t try harder to stop what was happening to me.”

Judge Byrne told the girl it wasn’t her fault.

“If you were in a crosswalk and a car hit you it wouldn’t be your fault, would it?”

Katy wasn’t sure. When you live on the streets of Ukiah, everything’s your fault. If the cops catch you sleeping outside, you can get a $600 ticket for “camping.” Then she understood that the judge was talking theory. If somebody like Tim Ryan Jr. or his dad got hit in a crosswalk, then no, it wouldn’t be their fault. Nothing is ever the fault of people who have nice houses, extra cars, and money to hire expensive lawyers like Mr. Feiner who had humiliated Katy on the witness stand during the trial. The girl was still looking apprehensively at Feiner, at Feiner and at Ryan Jr., her erstwhile “stepfather.”

One of the cops in the room, deputy Tim Goss, placed himself between Katy and the defense table. He put his hand on his nightstick as he gave Katy a reassuring smile. They’d have to go through him to get to her, and nobody’s getting through Goss. The kid could speak her mind.

Katy said, “It was hard for me to go through the hardships and embarrassments, and I want him to go through it too, because it changed who I am now.”

Judge Byrne said, “I’m just telling you to try and get over it as best you can.”

Mr. Feiner said his client wouldn’t speak because he was appealing the decision.

Tim Ryan Jr. was speaking, however, at first muttering that mother and daughter were “lying bitches,” and with each repetition of this mantra he got louder, and everyone in the courtroom could hear him and knew what kind of guy he is.

Deputy Goss adjusted his position closer to the defendant who was still in the jury box. Goss now had his other hand on the butt of his Tazer, and there was what seemed to be an eager twinkle in the deputy’s eye.

“Is the matter submitted, then,” Judge Byrne asked.

It was.

Judge Byrne said, “The court will pick as a primary principle, Count III, lewd and lascivious acts with a minor and select the aggravated term of eight years. Because the victim was particularly vulnerable — she’d just been brought back to live with her mother — and also because of the family’s economic situation. As to Count IV the court will impose the mid-term of six years, consecutive with an additional two years for the touching and fondling which is consistent with this kind of event — sexual intercourse. Because these were separate occasions where the victim was abused, and the defendant continued the conduct systematically when the victim was particularly vulnerable. As to Count I, the use of marijuana to weaken the victim and make her more vulnerable, the court imposes one year and eight months.”

“What about them?” Ryan Jr. howled.

It had come out during the trial that Ryan Jr. had told mother and daughter that if they turned him in they, too, would be prosecuted.

The judge ignored Ryan, saying, “You’ll be required to take an AIDS test, give a DNA sample, and register as a sex offender.’

Ryan was shouting louder, now: “The lying bitches, they were smoking too! What about them?!”

“Count II will run concurrent. There will be no contact with the victims. Four years parole.”

“What about the violation of probation?” the court clerk asked.

Everyone wanted a piece of Ryan Jr. The judge duly tacked that one on, too.

“It’s my practice to get them to prison right away,” the judge said. “I’ll give him 30 days and credit for time served, just to get him on his way.”

Ryan was still yelling about his persecution by the lying bitches.

“I want to get him to state prison,” the judge repeated.The deputies hauled Ryan Jr. out of the courtroom. He cursed the whole way out and into the hallway.

After the commotion subsided, the lawyers started arguing.

Mr. Feiner of Irvine argued that he’d been forced from his sick bed down south and forced to Ukiah when he wasn’t fully well. He’d filed a motion to postpone, a 1050.

Feiner complained, “If not for the prosecution’s mendacity I would now be home in bed. I have a stomach infection.”

He also had a note from his doctor, and maybe one from his mommy, too, but Ms. Cox did not feel Mr. Feiner’s pain.

“It was my understanding the date was set. Counsel had an obligation to notify the court two days in advance. That wasn’t done. I can’t speak to the fact that we weren’t served, but it’s the People’s position that Mr. Feiner would like to place the burden on the people for his screw-up. I’d be curious to know if Mr. Feiner ever even bought an airline ticket to come up here? When I spoke to his substitute counsel, she informed me she was going to submit on the motion. I didn’t know he was ill.”

Feiner said, “The People didn’t do their job.”

Cox said, “I think it’s disingenuous to say the People didn’t do their job. If Mr. Feiner didn’t have a history of continuing the case at the last minute it would be a different matter… As it stands, I ask that he be liable for the cost of bringing the victims out here and keeping them here an extra day. Tamara had to take off an extra two days off work, and what is particularly troubling is Katy’s finals were this week and now she’ll have to reschedule.”

Judge Byrne read the note from Feiner’s doctor and said, “I’m not going to impose sanctions at this time.”

The two lawyers left the courtroom sneering at each other.

Outside on the street, a guy approached me to say he’d seen the young victim wearing a tee shirt that said “Humboldt Hottie” on it. To him, the tee shirt summed up the case. Maybe he hadn’t seen and heard the girl testify, then again maybe there just aren’t many gentlemen left in this country.

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