Modesto man accused of sexually abusing family member could get plea deal

Modesto man accused of sexual abuse with family member

Jim Arnold of Modesto is accused of sexually abusing a family member and using a hidden camera to record the victim showering. He could reach a plea deal with Stanislaus County prosecutors.
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Jim Arnold of Modesto is accused of sexually abusing a family member and using a hidden camera to record the victim showering. He could reach a plea deal with Stanislaus County prosecutors.

A defense attorney on Friday told a judge there’s a chance for a plea deal in the case of a Modesto man who is accused of sexually abusing a child and using a hidden video camera to record the victim showering.

Jim Patrick Arnold, 40, remains free on $100,000 bail. The defendant is identified in court documents as James Patrick Arnold. He returned to Stanislaus Superior Court Friday morning for a pretrial hearing.

James Reilly, Arnold’s San Rafel-based attorney, told the judge that he had just handed the prosecutor some information, and he’s having conversations with the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office and discussing a “possible resolution” in the criminal case.

Arnold is accused of continuous sexual abuse of an underage family member. He’s also been charged with possessing an image of a minor engaged in sexual conduct, exploiting a minor and using a hidden video camera to secretly record another person.

Last month, Deputy District Attorney Erin Schwartz said in court that Arnold set up a video camera in a bathroom that recorded the sexual abuse victim showering. The victim is identified as “Jane Doe” in a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors on March 20.

The defense attorney at last month’s bail review hearing told the judge that Arnold has no previous criminal record, and his client is eager to resolve the case.

In a March 27 email to The Modesto Bee, Reilly said, “Mr. Arnold not only promptly admitted culpability and accepted responsibility for his actions, he did so under circumstances in which he was suicidal. Law enforcement contact resulted entirely from Mr. Arnold’s own regret and shame, rather than as a result of a complaint by the minor.”

Jim Arnold.jpeg
Jim Arnold

The alleged sexual abuse occurred on different occasions between March 2018 and February 2019 and involved three or more lewd and lascivious acts with the girl, according to the criminal complaint.

The charge alleging the use of a hidden camera is listed as a misdemeanor in the criminal complaint. The three other charges are felonies.

Arnold was a part-time volunteer youth ministry worker at Big Valley Grace Community Church in Modesto. But he has not been charged with any crimes associated with a child outside his family, and there’s no indication any other alleged victims have accused Arnold of illicit behavior.

Arnold, until recently resigning, worked as a senior human resources analyst for the Modesto Irrigation District. Before that, Arnold worked for the city of Modesto, where he held several positions before reaching the position of human resources manager.

While out on bail, the court has ordered Arnold not to have any unsupervised contact with anyone younger than 18 years old, in addition to the terms of a restraining order granted to his wife and to stay 100 yards away from his wife and children, their home, vehicles, school and work.

On Friday, Superior Court Judge Shawn Bessey scheduled Arnold to return to court May 24 for another pretrial hearing. There’s a possibility the defense and prosecutors could agree to a plea deal by next month’s hearing.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes news stories about criminal court cases in Stanislaus County for The Modesto Bee, issues related to immigration and immigrant communities and breaking news related to crime and public safety. From time to time, he covers the Modesto City Council meetings. He has worked as a news reporter in the Northern San Joaquin Valley since 2004.