Dec 16, 2022
Sexual battery charges were dismissed and a protective order was terminated after Riverside County Superior Court failed to assemble enough jurors for the related case to be heard, according to a KTLA report.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office confirmed that the sexual assault charges which were set for trial involved Jose Cruz, 27, from Ontario, California.
Cruz was alleged to have “willfully and unlawfully” touched the unidentified victim for the purpose of sexual arousal on October 6, 2021, KTLA reported.
The Riverside County D.A.’s Office announced that Cruz had been formally charged with sexual battery on December 6 – more than one year after the alleged sex crime occurred. He was due to appear in court on December 7, but the case would never be heard. The trial was effectively moot once the charges were dismissed.
According to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, the failure to summon enough jurors for the sexual assault trial to proceed was due to the vendor that was used by the Superior Court.
“A courtroom was available to hear the case on that day [December 7], but because of the failure to summon jurors, the case was continued. The following day, there was no courtroom available and the case was dismissed,” KTLA reported.
As a result of the sexual assault charges against Cruz being dismissed, a standing protective order (commonly known as a restraining order) was also terminated, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office confirmed to KTLA.
Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin reportedly stated that the blame for the case’s dismissal should be placed “squarely” on the Superior Court. Hestrin further asserted that the public was “owed an explanation for the apparent lack of oversight” of the third-party vendor, according to KTLA.
“This crisis is unacceptable and only adds to the daily toll of cases being dismissed by the courts,” District Attorney Hestrin told KTLA.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office did not confirm whether or not it would continue to pursue charges against Cruz for the alleged October 2021 sexual assault. The DA’s Office did tell KTLA that it would “continue to inform the public when cases are dismissed.”
Last week, the Dan Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced that it would not be filing criminal charges against three former San Diego State University football players accused of gang raping a 17-year-old high school senior at an off-campus party in 2021.
“The conclusions reached in this review are specific to this incident and should not discourage any victim from coming forward and reporting a crime to law enforcement,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement.
Although a sexual assault civil lawsuit and university inquiry are ongoing, the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune noted in reports that the “ripples from the case could reach far beyond those probes.”
As Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) founder and president, Sam Dordulian, told the San Diego Union-Tribune, without criminal charges being filed in such high-profile sexual assault cases, survivors may be less likely to come forward and report crimes.
Dordulian told the newspaper that when prosecutors decide not to file charges – even if that decision is appropriate – what the sexual assault survivor often hears is: “They don’t believe me.”
“It keeps future survivors from coming forward,” Dordulian said, “because they say, ‘Well, look, this woman has the guts to come forward and look what happened. She got shamed in public, and now, no one believes her. Everyone’s calling her a liar.'”
“That’s not what’s happening, but that’s how they’re reading it, that’s how they’re interpreting it,” he added.
Sam Dordulian previously served a sex crimes prosecutor and Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County. While prosecuting sex crimes, Dordulian obtained life sentences against some of the area’s most dangerous sexual predators. Today, he fights for justice on behalf of sexual assault survivors in civil court.
Dordulian told the newspaper that judges often do not allow juries in civil cases to be told that prosecutors declined to bring charges in a criminal case. “That’s partly because criminal and civil cases have different standards of proof,” the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
“In a criminal trial, the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil trial, it’s far lower – a preponderance of the evidence, or, more simply stated: The allegations are more likely true than not true.”
A recent report from CBS 8 San Diego indicated that a local vigilante group which actively works to expose sexual predators has alleged that the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office “refuses to prosecute” the individuals they refer.
The Creep Catching Unit (CC Unit) is headed by a San Diego college student identified only as “Ghost.” The group uses fake profiles of young boys and girls to find the sexual predators who use social media as a hunting ground for their young victims, according to CBS 8.
“Well, we never entice them, they always are the first to talk about anything sexual,” the Ghost said during one of two interviews with CBS 8. “We pose as a very innocent kid, you know, like, we’re not enticing them. All we do is we act like a kid, ‘oh yeah I’m doing homework today’ or ‘I’m listening to music,’ just everyday little kid things that little kids do. Some creeps talk really graphic and want to meet right away while others take their sweet time. They want to make sure the kids are real make sure the kid is not a cop to make sure the parents aren’t around.”
Ghost told CBS 8 that he is often in touch with San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and has served as a witness during sex crime trials. But he also alleges the D.A. refuses to prosecute the potential sexual predators identified by the Creep Catching Unit.
“I’ve emailed them, but nothing happens. I’ve messaged her on Instagram and she has never replied. The police departments already know who I am. So whenever they show up, they tell me, ‘hey, we’re gonna take your information, and we’re gonna send it off to the DA’s office but it’s gonna get rejected because she’s not going to press the charges,” Ghost told CBS 8 before adding, “but the police also tell me that at least it will be reported. So you know, like this happened, this guy, the creep that you caught, at least there’s going to be like a report about him.”
A spokesperson for San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan told CBS 8 that the office appreciates any tips that leads to the arrest of online predators. However, the spokesperson added that stings such as those conducted by the CC Unit are often dangerous. “Stephan’s spokesperson also says the tips and information provided by vigilante groups such as the CC Unit may prove difficult at trial,” CBS 8 reported.
“The District Attorney’s Office appreciates receiving information that can lead to an investigation that helps us hold criminals accountable and protect children from predators. We do not have a policy against bringing prosecutions that include legally admissible evidence from citizen groups. In fact, we have and will prosecute cases where the legal and ethical standards are met. But ultimately, we depend on trained law enforcement to safely investigate cases and submit information and evidence that is legally and ethically gathered. Our office, along with our law enforcement partners, have prioritized crimes against children and have invested in successful task forces that work day and night to protect children, including the Internet Crimes Against Children and Human Trafficking Task Forces,” the spokesperson told CBS 8.
“Sting operations’ conducted by untrained citizens can be dangerous and may result in evidence that is not admissible in court. It’s also important that any member of the public who contacts the police or our office turn over all the evidence they may have and not withhold key information.”
“Law enforcement and the D.A.’s Office have repeatedly asked that any citizen’s group who decides to directly engage rather than turn over tips to police, provide all evidence related to an incident in order to evaluate prosecution. In the past, requests to turn over all evidence have been denied. Meeting our constitutional obligation to provide the defense with exculpatory evidence cannot be done when only partial evidence from a video is provided, for example. Citizens are not trained on the importance of a thorough, legally valid investigation, and this can be a barrier to getting a criminal case filed. Even when a case cannot be filed because of the legal standards not being met, we still use the information to conduct an independent investigation in order to protect victims and uphold justice,” the spokesperson added.
Sexual assault civil lawsuits can be brought by survivors in an effort to recover much-needed financial compensation for various losses:
As DLG’s Sam Dordulian told the San Diego Union-Tribune, the burden of proof in sexual assault civil lawsuits is not as high when compared to criminal proceedings. Moreover, as a sexual assault survivor, you may bring a civil claim regardless of whether the District Attorney’s Office ever chooses to criminally prosecute your perpetrator.
In addition, the outcome of a criminal trial has no impact on the success of a sexual assault civil claim. Even if the criminal trial against a sexual predator is unsuccessful, a survivor’s civil lawsuit can lead to a maximum financial damages award.
For more information on the difference between a sexual assault civil and criminal lawsuit, please visit our recent blog.
California’s Assembly Bill 2777 (AB 2777) legislation affords all adult survivors of sexual assault with an opportunity to secure justice and financial compensation through the civil litigation process.
AB 2777 revives sexual assault claims seeking to recover financial damages for crimes which occurred on or after January 1, 2009. As a result of this new legislation, from January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2026, any adult survivor of sexual assault may file a civil claim seeking to recover financial compensation against a perpetrator.
Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.
Dordulian Law Group is a top-rated, full-service Los Angeles-area sexual assault firm that is currently accepting civil claims on behalf of survivors under AB 2777. To speak with one of our dedicated and proven California sexual assault attorneys through a free, confidential, and no obligation consultation to discuss your case, contact us today at 818-322-4056.
For additional information on how AB 2777 may offer you a chance at securing justice for a past sexual assault, please visit our recent blog.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.