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Cal. Court of Appeal Reverses Sex Offense Conviction

People v. Clotfelter Court: California Courts of Appeal, Docket: A155659 (First Appellate District), Opinion Date: June 2, 2021. Clotfelter was convicted of multiple counts of child molestation in the 1980s. After he served his 10-year state prison sentence and was released from prison, he was found to be a sexually violent predator (SVP). While Clotfelter was held in a state hospital as an SVP, he volunteered to be surgically castrated, which took place in 2001. In 2007, Clotfelter was unconditionally released, subject to lifetime SVP registration. During a routine sex offender compliance check and search of Clotfelter’s residence in 2016, an officer found evidence that he had formed relationships with three minor boys and their families. A jury convicted Clotfelter of two counts of annoying or molesting a child (Steven) under the age of 18, two counts of contacting or communicating with a 14 or 15-year-old child (B.H.) with the intent to commit a sexual offense, and two counts of contacting or communicating with a child under the age of 14 (E.H.) with the intent to commit a sexual offense. The court of appeal reversed. With respect to Steven, the evidence was insufficient to establish that Clotfelter’s conduct—including emails and gifts—was objectively irritating or disturbing under the statute. Defense counsel prejudicially erred; it is reasonably probable that the outcome would have been different had counsel objected to expert testimony that Clotfelter had the requisite mental states to commit the charged crimes and concerning child sexual abuse accommodation syndrome, and to testimony about his prior sexual offenses.

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