Hung jury in Sutter County molestation trial
A Sutter County jury was unable to reach a verdict Tuesday in the case of a former Yuba City man accused of molesting two relatives.
The jury of nine men and three women deadlocked on four felony sexual assault charges against Michael Tomas Armistead, but were leaning toward acquittal on the majority of the allegations, defense attorney Craig Leri said.
"They (the jury) were very cognizant of the inconsistencies in the testimony and some of the incredible things they came up with," he said.
Armistead, 44, pleaded not guilty to charges of lewd and lascivious acts with children under 14 and sexual penetration.
Leri, a Marysville attorney, criticized investigators throughout the 10-day trial.
"This case had holes all the way through it," Leri said. "There was evidence created just for the trial. I think that was clear."
The defense claimed both women fabricated the allegations against Armistead to punish him for cutting off financial support and for starting a new family.
Leri focused on what he said were inconsistent and changing stories from both alleged victims and some of the other prosecution witnesses.
Leri said repeatedly that allegations against his client swelled several times throughout the pretrial process, and detectives never properly investigated shifting claims.
At times, both women struggled on the stand and during pretrial interviews to recall specific times, locations and frequency of the alleged abuse. Anu Chopra, deputy Sutter County district attorney, was not available for comment.
During the trial, Chopra said inconsistencies in the alleged victims' statements were "minor," and the women were consistent on the important details.
The prosecutor noted that sexual assault victims frequently have trouble remembering specifics and said it was not unusual for traumatic memories to come back in fragmented pieces over periods of time.
One of the alleged victim said as much under cross-examination during the trial.
"I'm doing this off memory — I don't want to remember these things," the woman testified.
Leri said the case against his client never should have made it to a courtroom and said the alleged victims should have been called to testify much earlier in the case.
"I was just blown away that it could get this far in the process without having them take the witness stand," Leri said, while adding that he hopes prosecutors chose not to retry the case.
Armistead was not released from jail Tuesday, but his bail was set at $250,000. He had previously been denied bail.
He is due back in court on Oct. 10 when prosecutors are expected to decide whether to refile charges.
CONTACT Rob Parsons at email@example.com or 749-4785. Find him on Facebook at /ADcrimebeat or on Twitter at @ADcrimebeat.