The trial for the husband of a state lawmaker ended before it began as attorneys agreed to a plea deal that requires eight weeks of anger management counseling for defendant Rod Olsen.
Olsen, who is married to Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disturbing the peace for making loud and unreasonable noise in the Aug. 12 incident.
Initially, Olsen was charged with misdemeanor willful child cruelty related to claims of mistreatment of a 4-year-old boy at a youth soccer practice in Modesto. That charge was dropped in exchange for the plea deal.
After a short hearing Monday afternoon, Olsen said the plea deal shows that the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office agrees with what he has been saying all along – he never laid a hand on the boy.
“I feel 110 percent vindicated,” Olsen said after he entered his guilty plea.
From the beginning of the investigation, Olsen told authorities that he never touched the boy and would never harm a child. He said it’s unfortunate that it took prosecutors nine months to agree with him.
District Attorney Birgit Fladager said Olsen is wrong, that the plea deal doesn’t mean prosecutors believe he never touched the boy.
“As always, a settlement of a case is not an agreement that the alleged act did not occur; it is simply a mutual agreement by both sides to resolve the case,” Fladager said.
Along with the counseling, Judge Marie Silveira ordered Olsen to serve three years of informal probation. The judge also ordered the defendant to stay 100 yards away from the boy, which is a standard distance in restraining orders.
Kristin Olsen has attended previous court hearings to support her husband. She could not attend Monday’s hearing because she was at an energy summit in Canada. Her husband’s trial was scheduled to start this morning with jury selection before the attorneys agreed to the plea deal.
The boy’s mother told The Modesto Bee on Monday that she is disheartened that she and her son won’t have an opportunity to tell their story in front of a jury. She said her son’s account of what happened on that soccer field would’ve been enough to secure a conviction.
“It’s obvious why he took the plea deal. Mr. Olsen knew this was the only way out,” the boy’s mother said. “My son has never changed his story.”
But she is pleased the case is over and her son won’t have to testify, she said, because the experience on the witness stand would’ve been just as traumatic as the incident.
DA: Defense sought resolution
Fladager said her office was approached by the defense with a request to resolve the case. She said they explained the defense’s offer to the child’s parents, who agreed the plea deal would be appropriate under the circumstances of the case.
“In addition, it spared the child from having to testify, for which the parents were grateful,” Fladager said.
The incident occurred during a Modesto Youth Soccer Association practice at Standiford Park on Tokay Avenue.
The child’s mother has said Rod Olsen yelled at her son, accusing the boy of hitting his son. She also has said Olsen grabbed her child so violently by the arm that he left bruises and caused the boy to wet his pants.
Olsen said he was loud that day and didn’t behave like an adult, but he never harmed the boy. He said he also was condescending toward the boy’s mother and his grandmother, but that he apologized to them that evening.
The boy’s mother said Olsen was “completely irate” that evening, that he verbally harassed them as they left the soccer field, and he never apologized.
When asked whether he has anger management problems, Olsen didn’t answer yes or no. But he did say about the counseling: “I’m going into it with an open mind, so I can better myself.”
Robert Forkner, Rod Olsen’s defense attorney, spoke to The Modesto Bee on behalf of Assemblywoman Olsen.
He said she is thankful the boy no longer has to go through a trial and that she empathizes with the child. She has said the case against her husband is based on a “ridiculously false accusation.”
Rod Olsen and his attorney said the prosecution was politically motivated, claiming the assemblywoman’s political opponents were pressuring prosecutors to file charges against her husband. The defendant said the allegations against him came only after some at the soccer field discovered to whom he was married.
The boy’s mother said the case had nothing to do with any political agendas.
“My son and I were just telling the truth,” she said. “I have no political vendetta. I actually voted for Ms. Olsen, I’m a Republican.”