Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney Will Bruzzo successfully defended an Orange County college student accused of Felony Assault with Force Likely to Cause Great Bodily Injury (Penal Code Section 245(a)(4)) and Misdemeanor Sexual Battery (Penal Code Section 243.4 (e)(1)). If convicted the Defendant was facing lifetime sex registration under Penal Code Section 290 for the sexual battery charge. The trial occurred at the North Justice Center in Fullerton, California.
The facts of the case are that the Defendant allegedly grabbed the buttock of an adult female with his hand, one time at a college party. Sometime later the partygoers left the party and congregated together in an elevator lobby area. At that time the same Defendant who allegedly grabbed the buttock of the female then punched her boyfriend in the face one time. Friends and acquaintances of the first Defendant then all hit the victim-boyfriend one time each in the face except for one co-defendant who hit the victim in the back. Including Mr. Bruzzo’s client there were four co-defendants.
The victim allegedly lost consciousness, suffered cuts and bruises and two years after the fact claimed to suffer from headaches resulting from the attack. Despite the injuries Mr. Bruzzo managed to convince an Orange County Superior Court Judge to reduce the felony Assault to a misdemeanor per Penal Code Section 17b. Mr. Bruzzo believes the court’s actions here resulted in part out of the court’s frustration with the District Attorney refusing to alter or dismiss the sexual assault charge and instead insisting on lifetime sex registration for one buttock grab, which prevented resolution of the case.
Mr. Bruzzo’s client was originally facing a maximum of 4 years in prison for these offenses prior to the Assault being reduced to a misdemeanor.
What made this case difficult for the Defense is that the entire attack in the elevator lobby area was caught on high definition, high quality surveillance video. The video left no doubt as to the identity of the attackers or of the fact that none of the Defendants could rely on self-defense. The video revealed what appeared to be a ruthless, brutal attack by four individuals on one person. The video was so disturbing that when it was played for the jurors an audible gasp was heard from several of them.
Mr. Bruzzo made the strategic decision to have his client admit to the attack when he testified, while stating in mitigation that provocative words had been exchanged between them prior to the fight. There was essentially no issue as to the Assault charge since it was on video and the jury found the Defendant guilty of that charge. The biggest problem with the video as pertained to the second charge of sexual battery is that even though there was no video of the sexual assault, the video of the fight put the Defendant in a very unflattering light.
The Defense was aided by the prior statements of the sexual battery victim who first told the police that she had been grabbed several times, then changed her story to one time and finally at trial she stated that whatever she told the police originally must be accurate. The jury did not confer with the attorneys after trial but it could be that the sexual battery victim’s seeming inability to recall the events from her own memory undermined her credibility and lent strength to the Defendant’s claim that he never touched her buttocks.
Also, sexual battery requires that the Prosecution show the Defendant acted with the specific intent to arouse himself and/or seek sexual gratification with the offensive touching. It could be that the jurors could not say for certain whether the Defendant was trying to get the sexual battery victim’s attention or that the touching was incidental and not intentional. It could also be that the jurors felt that one touching of the buttock was not conduct which deserved a criminal charge. The latter would be jury nullification since the law allows for one touching to satisfy the law and permit a finding of guilty.
After less then 45 minutes of deliberation time the jurors found Mr. Bruzzo’s client NOT GUILTY of the Sexual Battery Charge. This is despite the very disturbing video of the Assault.
If you or a loved one is accused of Assault, Battery or Sexual Battery, contact the Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo for a free consult at (714) 547-4636.