In 2010, our firm represented an individual, J.H., that was charged with, among other things, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse and Rape. The alleged sexual molestation was on a foster child that resided with him in 2005-2006. My client, a 60 year old man, had never been accused of anything in his life, despite having raised his own children and at least 20 foster kids over a span of the last 30 years. Based upon the advice of his former counsel, he entered a negotiated guilty plea to some of the charges in March 2009. Despite having entered pleas to reduced charges, he was still facing jail time and a possible lifetime of mandated registration under Megan's Law. He came to us after he entered the plea, but before sentencing. He felt he had done the wrong thing because he was not guilty, but felt he had no other choice. Based upon the information he shared with us and the evidence in the case, our attorney convinced him to petition the court to withdraw his plea and proceed to a trial. This was a risky proposition because the plea agreement would no longer be offered by the district attorney's office or accepted by the Court.
However, the victim's statements to the police were inconsistent. The victim, a 16-year-old boy at the time, had testified at a preliminary hearing and told the police something different. He had also made statements to a victim's resource center that were also inconsistent. There was no physical evidence of the crimes occurring. The client never admitted to committing the crimes. There were no key elements for a good prosecution in this case, such as corroborating physical evidence, a credible victim or an admission by a defendant.
After successfully withdrawing his plea, our office focused on his defense. We hired an investigator, interviewed the victim, the police, other Commonwealth witnesses, our own potential witnesses and gathered key evidence.
Of note in this case — the victim testified that the incident occurred when the client was watching a pornographic movie he had ordered through a "pay-per-view" service. The victim was adamant that there was no DVD, VHS or other method of watching the movie other than a "pay-per-view" box. Our investigator interviewed the records clerk for the cable service and was able to determine that our client never ordered such a movie, nor could he have, because such was blocked by our client one month earlier. This was devastating to the victim's credibility.
In the face of this and other evidence of our client's innocence, the district attorney's office agreed to nolle prosse, or dismiss, all the charges against our client! He went from a jail cell with possible lifetime registration requirements of Megan's Law to complete freedom and vindication. He was innocent without even having to conduct a trial.
This is why it is important to investigate your case utilizing an experienced defense attorney. Do NOT leave your case to someone that has little or no trial experience or is not willing to get their own hands dirty by sifting through the case. At Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC, we check on all available witnesses, run down all the leads; we don't stop until we have all the answers.
If you need experienced criminal defense, contact our office in Harrisburg by calling 717-827-4074.
Learn more about sex crimes cases on our Criminal Law Blog.