State assemblywoman’s husband fails to appear for arraignment; his attorney says it was a mix-up

11/13/2013 5:03 PM

11/13/2013 11:03 PM

The husband of state Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen failed to appear for his arraignment hearing Wednesday morning to face a misdemeanor charge related to the claimed mistreatment of a 4-year-old boy at a youth soccer practice.

But the judge said it was unclear whether defendant Rod Olsen was properly notified to appear in court this week.

Robert Forkner, Olsen’s defense attorney, was not notified of the scheduled arraignment. Forkner appeared on his client’s behalf Wednesday afternoon and entered a not guilty plea for Olsen.

“Mr. Olsen denies ever touching this child,” Forkner said in the courthouse hallway. “Mr. Olsen is confident he will be cleared of this charge.”

Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge John Whiteside called out Olsen’s name about 90 minutes after the arraignment hearing was scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. Court staff had called out Olsen’s name twice before on that morning, but nobody answered.

When it became clear that Olsen was not one of the two remaining people sitting in the courtroom audience, Whiteside said it appeared that Olsen had been sent a letter to appear in court Wednesday morning.

After further examining the case file, the judge said it was unclear to him whether Olsen had been properly notified to appear in court.

Instead of issuing a warrant for his arrest, the judge said he was referring the matter to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office. Whiteside said it would be up to prosecutors to review the case and determine whether an arrest affidavit should be filed in Olsen’s case.

Assistant District Attorney Carol Shipley said court staff is responsible for notifying Olsen of when to appear for his arraignment hearing, so she couldn’t verify whether the defendant was properly notified.

Had Olsen failed to appear after being notified by mail, Shipley said, prosecutors would ask the court to approve an arrest warrant for the defendant. Law enforcement officials would then be authorized to take the defendant into custody.

But that was not needed Wednesday.

Forkner said it appeared that the court clerk’s office sent the notification letter to an address where Olsen no longer resides. By Wednesday afternoon, Forkner had cleared up the matter with court staff. A pretrial hearing in Olsen’s case was scheduled Dec. 2.

The alleged incident occurred Aug. 12 during a Modesto Youth Soccer Association practice at Standiford Park on Tokay Avenue. The child’s mother has told The Modesto Bee that Olsen grabbed her child so violently by the arm that he left bruises and caused the child to urinate in his pants.

On Oct. 10, prosecutors filed a criminal complaint, charging Olsen with misdemeanor willful child cruelty.

The defendant has told The Bee that the misdemeanor charge stems from a false accusation made against him, and he has fully cooperated with police investigators.

Forkner said his client has been a board member for the youth soccer association and would never assault a child. The defense attorney also said that there were several parents present during the alleged incident, and not one saw Olsen assault or strike a child.

The boy’s mother told an investigator that she saw Olsen walk across the soccer field toward her son and grab the boy’s upper left arm, according to an affidavit filed in court Oct. 10 by prosecutors. The mother told the investigator that Olsen then yelled at her son, accusing the boy of hitting his son.

If convicted, the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor charge is six months in county jail. Other terms include mandatory probation for 48 months, a protective order for the victim against the defendant and at least one year of child abuse treatment counseling for the defendant.

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