Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lawyers spar in William Jacobs sex abuse case

At a hearing for former Minneapolis park police chief accused of molesting a boy, his attorney accused a prosecutor of misconduct.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors scrapped Friday over admitting controversial evidence in the child molestation case of an ex-Minneapolis park police chief accused of abusing a boy for three years.

Friday's hearing was the first after a lengthy gap in the case of William Allan Jacobs, 68, of Deephaven, nearly two years after he was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and 15 felony counts of possessing child pornography. He is scheduled to stand trial in March.

According to the charges, a 15-year-old boy reported to authorities in January 2010 that Jacobs had been molesting him since 2007. Jacobs was the head of the park police from 1987 to 2001 and also worked at Blake and Breck private schools.

During Friday's hearing, prosecutors said that another alleged victim had come forward since news emerged of the Penn State University scandal involving a former football coach who allegedly molested children.

Jacobs' defense attorneys Joe Friedberg and Paul Engh argued that Judge Daniel Moreno should review counseling records of the teenager to determine whether they are admissible as defense evidence.

Engh said Friday that the boy told investigators he had been in counseling for three years before making the allegations. He contended that the records should be made available as evidence because the boy never told doctors or counselors of the abuse, even though he was probably asked about it. The evidence is important, Engh said, because it affects his credibility.

"He's routinely asked, we assume, 'Are things going well? How are you? Are you being hurt?' " Engh said. "For three years he has absolutely no concern about Bill Jacobs or what is allegedly happening to him."

Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Judy Johnston called it a "ruse" to gain private information about the boy, who will testify against Jacobs.

"The real reason they want this is to harass this victim to make him even more vulnerable when he takes the stand," Johnston said.

Prosecutors moved to admit into evidence 16 files of child pornography found on Jacobs' computer that they allege were called up during the boy's visits. Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Krista White said the pornography is "intertwined with the abuse and part of the abuse scenario."

Friedberg countered that the pornography is prejudicial against his client. He said the boy told investigators that he saw pornography but not child porn, which is what prosecutors are trying to get into evidence. The child porn is irrelevant, he said.

Accusations exchanged

Friedberg also accused Johnston of misconduct in asking District Judge Daniel Mabley for advice related to the case. Even though Mabley, a onetime prosecutor, is not connected to the case, Friedberg said their informal meeting indicated bias. He suggested that both officials report themselves to their respective professional boards, and for Johnston to excuse herself from the case.

"How in the world can a lawyer use a sitting District Court judge as an adviser?" Friedberg asked. Johnston called the motion a character assassination and stalling tactic to further delay the trial.

"It is appalling," she said. "They should be ashamed of themselves. Ask them whether they will report themselves to the board for their misconduct."

In an e-mail, Mabley said he reported himself to the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards upon learning of the allegations.

"Suffice it to say that I am confident that I engaged in no unethical or improper conduct," he wrote.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Johnston will not be reporting herself to the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility because "there's nothing to self-report."

Moreno will rule on all of the motions at a later date. Friday's hearing was the first since defense attorneys attempted to have the judge removed from the case because his wife is a Hennepin County prosecutor (she is not involved in the case). The issue went to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in September that the judge's marriage was not a conflict and that Moreno could remain on the case.

By Abby Simons, Star Tribune, 612-673-4921

Source: Star Tribune


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