Houman Fakhimi

California Sex Crime Suspect Arrested in Mexico, Returned

Fullerton sex crime defense lawyers understand that a man suspected of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in Northridge was arrested in Mexico, brought back to the U.S. and recently made his first appearance in a Los Angeles courtroom.

He was officially arraigned at that proceeding, with the three dozen charges against him including sexual assault, kidnapping and first-degree burglary. His bond has been set at an astronomical $19 million, and he faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted on all counts.

A co-defendant, who is not believed to have participated in the alleged sexual assault, is charged with burglary and kidnapping and faces a maximum of 12 years behind bars if convicted. Authorities say he was a party to the initial burglary, and though he did not initiate the kidnapping, he did drive the vehicle.

Neither man is a convicted sex offender.

According to agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the defendant is accused of breaking into the girl's occupied home in the middle of the night, abducting her at knifepoint and then sexually assaulting her a number of times and taking photographs of her unclothed before dropping her off in a parking lot, where officials found her wandering about 12 hours after she had first been reported missing.

The first suspect was located about 200 miles south of the U.S. border a few days later, while the second suspect was stoped in his vehicle a short distance away from the alleged crime scene.

Cases of sexual assault involving children aren't especially rare, though despite the impression you may get from reading headlines, stranger rapes and abductions are realtively uncommon.

It's not clear what evidence authorities have against the suspects in this case. But there are both advantages and challenges to a criminal defense team when the alleged victim and defendant don't know one another or aren't connected by anything other than the reported incident.

In cases where the suspect and child do not know each other, the chances of an erroneous witness identification are increased. A child may be able to easily tell you whether an uncle or family friend caused them harm. But with strangers, children - who on the whole tend to be notoriously unreliable witnesses - have a high rate of misidentification. That's not to say the crime didn't occur, but especially in a situation where the child was frightened, traumatized and perhaps was unable to see that well, the propensity for error is high.

So that is one aspect of a case that defense attorneys may have higher success in challenging.

A tougher obstacle will be overcoming DNA evidence, if it exists. Many modern rape cases don't move forward without it (the bigger challenge for investigators in stranger rape cases is usually the lack of a suspect.) If DNA evidence is available and it matches the defendant, that can be a compelling argument for the prosecution, particularly in stranger rape cases. While certain types of DNA evidence might be explained with normal interactions between two people who know one another, you can't make the same argument for two people who have no other connection.

A lot of times, what we look at then is the way in which the evidence was collected, the standards upheld by the investigating agency and whether there is any indication of contamination or improper collection procedures.

Contact Houman Fakhimi trial attorney at (714) 705-6701 as soon as possible if you are arrested in Fullerton.

Additional Resources

Northridge kidnap, assault suspect's court date moved up to today, April 25, 2013, By Andrew Blankenstein, Kate Mather and Richard Marosi, The Los Angeles Times.