(Author’s note: Fairgoers this weekend will likely be leery of letting their kids ride on the ever-popular Gravitron after reading this story so we hasten to preface it with assurances that the incident reported below was isolated and not likely to re-occur in Boonville Fair weekend.)
The trial for Jose Carmona ended last Friday after lengthy testimony from an eight-year-old girl, Jane Doe, who says the operator of the Gravitron (Carmona) exposed himself to her last June at the fair in Ukiah. El pervo was subsequently charged with two counts — annoying or molesting a child under 14, and indecent exposure. At the time of this writing, the jury was still deliberating his innocence.
During a session of pre-trial motions, the lawyers, Justin Petersen for the defense, Daniel Madow from the DA’s office, and Judge Ann Moorman, decided they would address the victim and her brother, who is 10 and also went on the ride, by their first names only. During a post-trial session, myself and the Spanish language interpreter for the defendant (Carlos Benneman, long-time Petrolia neighbor and friend of the late Alexander Cockburn) decided that the lawyers did more psychological harm to the victim than the defendant could have, even if the charges were true. It was the kind of case where the lawyers seemed like bigger pervs than the perv on trial.
Little Jane was subjected to approximately five hours on the stand over the course of two days. Benneman, who has been a court interpreter since 1961, said it was the ugliest thing he’s ever seen in a courtroom. The rabid prosecutor and stultifyingly thorough defense attorney seemed oblivious to the crime of having a little girl spend two days in front of a jury describing the penises of her brother and father, then being compelled to draw pictures of them to compare to the weenie wagger who'd exposed himself to her.
These two champions of the law will swear they were only serving Justice, doing their jobs, but whatever innocence wasn’t whirled out of young Jane on the Gravitron, was ripped out with dentist’s pliers in court in front of the well-dressed adults of the jury.
Jane and her brother John Doe, Jr. went to the fair in Ukiah with their father, John Doe, Sr. Junior was eager to try some tricks on the Gravitron he’d seen on YouTube videos. Young Jane on the other hand was a bit nervous about the ride. Just after noon, the two children were the only ones who bought tickets. This was ideal for Junior’s purposes, and he went behind the operator’s back where he could get away with his stunts. It was also ideal for defendant Carmona, the prosecution contended, and young Jane was directed to a place — the only place — where she had a full view of the operator in his control cab at the center of the flying saucer-shaped Gravitron. When the ride started, Jane said, the operator took out his penis and, leering at her, began to stroke it.
Reprehensible behavior, to be sure. But to give the reader some notion of how common it is let’s back up to the process of jury selection for this case, which took nearly as long as the trial and involved well over 100 randomly picked members (sic) of the community — the better members — the ones without criminal backgrounds. Of the first group of potential jurors herded into the courtroom — approximately 45 souls — only three had not been exposed to some form of child molestation!
The following day a new group was summoned to do their constitutional duty and again, many said their own chomo experiences prevented them from serving. At this rate it is easily calculated that something like 90% of the people in Mendocino County have either been molested or they have had it happen to an immediate family member. We have to assume the remaining ten percent are not sexually twisted, but if 90% of a random sample of conscientious citizens has suffered varying degrees of sexual outrage, it might be time to take down the flag and re-boot this country.
12 jurors out of 120 in the jury pool were found untainted.
Welcome to Mendocino County! Wine! Dope! Perverts!
The suspense in this case was taut as a spider web by the time Jane was called into the courtroom and made her way to the witness stand with an officer from the DA’s Victim Witness Office. Judge Ann Moorman swore her in. Jane smiled shyly at the jury, mostly members of her grandparents’ generation who had promised the judge they’d be fair and impartial.
The child's cheerful gallantry through such grim work was admirable, as defense attorney Petersen, prefacing his questions with grotesque and insincere pieties like, “I know this is going to make you feel uncomfortable, but I have a duty to ask, Do you know what masturbation means? No? How about jacking off? Ever heard that one, maybe from your brother or…”
Or the Mendocino County Bar Association?
Little Jane said what she had to say in less than two minutes, yet the legal beagles dragged the kid through a perv's lexicon for almost five hours, using every trick in the book, like they were dealing with a crafty old jailbird. As Jane tired of dodging snares, the lawyers, like bloodhounds, increased their depraved howls.
El Pervo's defense consisted of a claim that he suffered from a persistent rash he'd brought with him from Mexico. He was trying to relieve his itching scrotum with some cream and a lotion he bought earlier in the day. Of course he just happened to be doing it plein air with a child looking on.
The legal masterminds commenced their steel trap interrogations of the defendant.
“Were you in a truck?”
“No, it was a van.”
“Tells us the difference between a truck and a van, if you know?”
“Well a van is all closed in, whereas a truck is open in the back.”
“Yes. But what color was the van?”
“It was white, and it had some writing on the doors, the name of the company we worked for.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“How many of there were you, in the van — if you remember?”
Carmona remembered them all, and every item each bought at Wal-Mart and FoodMaxx and the trip to Rite-Aid, where he and a fellow victim of Mexican Crotch Rot had gone for relief.
“We went into the cream aisle but couldn’t read the labels because they were all in English.”
They must not have looked too hard, because by California State law all over the counter medicines must be translated into Spanish on the package.
“What did you do?”
“I told my friend to show the salesgirl his rash.”
Really? A groin rash in a store?
Caramba! Every weenie wagger in the County will be headed for that checkout counter!
“And what did she say?”
“She recommended some cream and lotion.”
“Your honor, I’d like to enter Defense Exhibits C [the tube of cream] and D [the lotion] into evidence.”
The court clerk, Kristen Lozano put on surgical gloves to label the exhibits, which have been festering in the evidence locker since last June. Petersen showed them to his client.
“Yes, that’s the stuff,” he said.
Ineffective against Mexican Crotch Cooch, apparently, as the defendant said he still suffers from it.
A doctor was brought in to verify the rash. Also, a medical officer from the jail. Neither of these medicos had any idea how to cure the rash, but both said yes, it looked like it probably was bad and itchy.
Most of the testimony was by Jane; the kid suffered enough on the stand without repeating it in these pages. Why a child was subjected to this kind of thing in a court of law is one for a legal ethics class, but the fact that it happened doesn't do much to inspire confidence in the judgment of the local courts.
The jury will come back and vindicate the kid's valorous stand or they will listen to Mr. Petersen’s errant theories on how easily kids can be coaxed into telling stories about being bitten by a mouse and all her humiliation on the stand will have to be done again — Petersen as much as admitted in his closing the best he could hope for was a hung jury, another ten hours of raking Jane over the coals!
Petersen cited the McMaster's daycare case in San Diego where much younger children, pre-schoolers, had been enticed by their porn-drenched parents into accusing their caretakers of molestation. The case included a famous study where six-to-eight-year-olds were asked whether they’d ever been bitten by a mouse. None had. The next day they were asked the same question again, and some of the subjects thought perhaps they may have actually, come to think on it, had a dental encounter with a small rodent. By the time they’d been asked a third time they had all nearly been devoured by hordes of ravenous mice.
(The McMaster's case ignited similar hysterias in Mendocino County, most notably in Fort Bragg in the 1900s, where the Orr sisters, practicing Catholics and daycare providers, were accused of renting the toddlers in their care to child molesters. The molestos, you see, would ferry the molestees, pre-schoolers, by helicopter up the coast for sessions with Beezlebub's Mendo disciples, but have the toddlers back in Fort Bragg in plenty of time for their unsuspecting parents to pick them up after work. The Orr sisters were run out of town, losing their property, custody of one sister's child, and nearly their lives. Mendocino County Social Services led the charge on that one, as the Sheriff's Department sent their resident intellectual, Gary Hudson, to tax-funded seminars on a phenomenon that did not exist, would not have existed, in a civilized, educationally current, nation.)
We’ll just have to wait and see what the jury decides in the Mexican Itch matter.
Meanwhile, beware the Gravitron.