Monday, December 16, 2013
S.C. Rejects Geneticist’s Bid to Overturn Conviction
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The California Supreme Court has rejected a bid by a world-famous geneticist to overturn his conviction for molesting the daughter of an associate.
The justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco Wednesday, unanimously denied review of a ruling by Div. Three of this district’s Court of Appeal, denying William French Anderson’s habeas corpus petition.
The appellate panel last year affirmed Anderson’s conviction and 14-year sentence for continuous sexual abuse of a child and three counts of lewd acts with a child, rejecting his contention that Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Pastor excluded exculpatory evidence at his 2006 trial.
In his habeas petition, Anderson—who will turn 77 later this month—claimed his trial lawyer, Barry Tarlow, rendered ineffective assistance by, among other things, not trying to prove that a recording that was a key piece of prosecution evidence had been altered to delete a portion that would have exculpated him.
Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein, in an unpublished Sept. 5 opinion for the Court of Appeal, said the claim the recording was tampered with lacked credibility.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Records show that Anderson—a black belt in taekwondo, and once hailed as the “father of gene therapy”—is serving his sentence at the California Institute for Men in Chino.
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, which 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.
In the habeas petition, he contended that at the beginning of the conversation, Y. accused him of molesting her and he denied it. His habeas counsel, Douglas Otto, attached a letter from Tarlow, in which the trial lawyer said Anderson “repeatedly” claimed the conversation started with Y. saying “you ruined my life, and “may well have claimed to me at times that there was a small amount of additional conversation also missing.”
But the missing conversation that Anderson claimed occurred was a matter of “seconds,” not minutes, Tarlow said.
Tarlow also said he raised all possible issues regarding the admissibility of the recording at trial.
Otto argued that Tarlow was negligent in failing to pursue the “time disparity” between the length of the conversation as recorded—11 minutes, 48 seconds—and lead detective Ron Jester’s log, which showed that Y. entered the library 14 minutes after Anderson arrived.
Defense experts provided declarations saying there were anomalies in the recording, suggesting that portions of what was said were missing.
Jester, however, noted that the times were recorded in minutes, not seconds, and said the supposed discrepancy was explained by the fact that Anderson did not begin speaking to Y. as soon as he arrived at the library, and that the entry regarding Y. was actually the time he was informed that she had entered the library and was safe, not when the recording ended.
Also, a sheriff’s detective responsible for transferring the digital recording to a computer testified there was no alteration and no means of altering the recording.
Klein, writing for the Court of Appeal, said the claim that as much as three minutes of conversation may not have been recorded was “entirely incredible.”
The jurist noted that in a letter written by Anderson to his friend, the San Marino police chief, prior to his arrest, the defendant claimed that he had been falsely accused of molestation, reported the conversation in front of the library, and said it had lasted only a few minutes.
Anderson made similar statements to police who questioned him on two occasions, the presiding justice noted. Yet he never claimed, in his letter, or in his statements to police, or in his trial testimony, that the conversation began with Y. accusing him of molestation and his immediately denying it; a claim made for the first time in his habeas petition.
Klein also noted that Y. testified before a grand jury that the recording was complete and accurate. Tarlow, being aware of that testimony, could have made a reasonable tactical decision not to pursue the “time disparity” theory, even if Anderson’s account of what he told the lawyer was true, the presiding justice concluded.
The case is People v. Anderson, B197737.
Copyright 2013, Metropolitan News Company