MODESTO -- A judge Wednesday denied a motion to overturn a grand jury indictment against a former Modesto police officer accused of sexually assaulting a woman inside a motel room earlier this year.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden said that testimony from the alleged victim was enough to obtain a criminal grand jury indictment against Lee Freddie Gaines, 27. He has been charged with oral copulation by force, being armed with a firearm while committing a sexual offense, sexual battery and assault under color of authority.
The judge based her ruling on the alleged victim's testimony and other evidence presented to the grand jury, which she said was sufficient to uphold the indictment even without the DNA evidence in this case.
"I think the grand jury still would've reached the same conclusion," McFadden said in court.
The alleged victim, a 37-year-old woman, testified to the grand jury that she was working as a prostitute at the motel.
She has told The Bee she got a call for service, and the officer came to her motel room. She said the officer handcuffed her and demanded oral sex.
A prosecutor told the grand jury that the woman's saliva was found on the inside of a zipper on Gaines' uniform.
McFadden said the grand jurors found the woman's testimony credible, because the DNA evidence from the saliva only proves there was contact between the alleged victim and the defendant. The judge also said the DNA doesn't prove Gaines forced her into a sexual act, a prosecution theory that relies on other evidence presented to the grand jury.
Mary Lynn Belsher, Gaines' defense attorney, asked the judge to overturn the indictment, arguing that the prosecutor failed to present evidence that would have exonerated her client in the closed-door grand jury proceeding.
In her filed motion, Belsher pointed to statements from Gaines' former co-workers. The defense attorney argued that the six police officers told an investigator they had never seen Gaines act inappropriately with women; instead, he has treated women professionally and respectfully.
The judge said Wednesday the officers' statements would not have been much help to Gaines had the prosecutor presented it as character evidence in its entirety.
One officer told the investigator that Gaines occasionally exchanged phone numbers with women he met on duty and is a "pretty boy," with whom women often flirted and he flirted back.
Another officer told the investigator that he noticed Gaines spent "an inordinate amount of time" outside his patrol beat to be in downtown Modesto, "where younger ladies would gather to go to clubs," according to court documents.
The judge, however, determined that Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Harris didn't provide the jurors sufficient information on how the DNA evidence was analyzed.
"I don't know what was used here, except for the response (to the motion to dismiss) from Mr. Harris," McFadden said in court. "It wasn't in the (grand jury) transcript."
Belsher argued that jurors never heard testimony that indicated that the DNA evidence was analyzed appropriately. Instead, the criminalists who testified jumped straight to their conclusions.
"(Harris) used it over and over again to prove to the grand jury that Mr. Gaines was guilty," Belsher argued in court.
At the end of Wednesday's hearing, Belsher told McFadden she plans to appeal the court's ruling.
The defendant, who is free on bail, is scheduled to return to court July 16 for a pretrial hearing.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.