Friday, July 27, 2012
C.A. Upholds Molestation Conviction of Scientist
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday affirmed the conviction of a world-famous geneticist on charges he molested the daughter of an associate.
Div. Three, in an opinion by Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, rejected claims by William French Anderson that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor excluded exculpatory evidence at his 2006 trial. Jurors found him guilty of continuous sexual abuse of a child and three counts of lewd acts with a child, for which Pastor sentenced him to 14 years in prison.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Records show that Anderson, once hailed as the “father of gene therapy” is now 75 years of age and is serving his sentence at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco.
According to testimony, Anderson molested the victim, who was identified only as Y., almost monthly over a five-year period, beginning at age 10. Anderson coached the girl in competitive martial arts, traveling with her to, and helping her win, national competitions, but he molested her on the trips, she said.
Y. said she did not report the abuse during those years because he was well-respected, and reporting him would have repercussions for her and her mother. She eventually told a friend, and later a school counselor, who notified police.
Detectives interviewed Y. and eventually got her to arrange a meeting with Anderson, at which she wore a recording device. Anderson, who had told her in an email that he would apologize to her in person but not by email, admitted molesting her.
He was arrested eight days later.
At trial, prosecutors presented the victim’s testimony, along with copies of emails between them. While Y.’s emails specifically mentioned sexual activity, Anderson’s were more cryptic, referring to having “behaved so badly,” treated her “badly,” and promising to make “certain that nothing like it happens again.”
Anderson entered therapy, and provided Y. with what he said were progress reports. When she specifically asked him for an apology, he responded that he would offer one in person, but that “emails are not safe” because if “a famous biotech scientist” wrote “an...explicit email,” it could be sold or used for extortion.
Anderson testified that the misbehavior referred to in his emails involved placing pressure on Y. to succeed, and had nothing to do with sex. He claimed that there were other emails, not offered in evidence, that made this clear.
In one such email, he claimed, Y. said he had placed “overzealous pressure” on her and ruined her life. In another, he testified, she wrote that “you didn’t sexually abuse me, but you certainly emotionally abused me.”
He agreed to attend therapy, he explained, to deal with stress caused by the government’s defunding of his laboratory. He admitted wanting Y. to believe he was in ongoing therapy, even though he only attended one session.
He claimed that the incriminating statements he made in the recorded conversation, which took place at the South Pasadena library, were made because Y. was having a crisis and he said whatever she wanted him to say in order to calm her down.
The defense also offered in evidence a four-page letter that the defendant and his wife wrote to the San Marino police chief, a friend, between the date of the library meeting and his arrest. The Andersons suggested in the letter that Y. was emotionally disturbed and that he feared she would try to extort him.
The chief referred the matter to the Sheriff’s Department in order to avoid a conflict of interest.
The defense argued that the letter was admissible as proof of the defendant’s innocent state of mind around the time of the meeting. But Pastor said it was hearsay, and that even if it wasn’t, it was more likely to confuse the jury than shed light on the issues.
Klein, writing yesterday for the Court of Appeal, said the letter was offered for a hearsay purpose, and that the judge’s ruling was neither an abuse of discretion nor prejudicial.
“[U]nless the content of the letter is considered, the fact Anderson and his wife wrote a letter which Anderson thereafter delivered to Chief Farris was meaningless,” she wrote. “Anderson also claims the letter was admissible to show his state of mind and to provide circumstantial support for his claim he was alarmed by Y.’s behavior and it caused him to fear extortion. However, Anderson’s state of mind days after the library confrontation was marginally relevant and the trial court did not prevent Anderson from testifying about his perception of Y.’s behavior during the library confrontation.”
Given the extensive testimony by Anderson and his wife, Klein went on to say, it is not possible that the letter’s admission would have added anything to the defense case that would have affected the verdict.
Attorneys on appeal were Dennis A. Fischer and John M. Bishop for the defendant and Deputy Attorneys General Susan Sullivan Pithey and Blythe J. Leszkay for the prosecution.
The case is People v. Anderson, B197737.
Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company