On December 21, 2007, Federica Galicia and her 18-year-old son, Javier, went to Washington Middle School in Vista, California to find out if Javier’s 13-year-old sister was in school.
Javier’s sister had given him a note a day earlier saying she was leaving home. That morning, she taken two backpacks stuffed with clothing to school.
At the school, the girl was summoned from class into the office of a school counselor, who spoke to the girl alone. The girl told the counselor that her older brother, 21-year-old Luis Galicia, had been molesting her. The counselor notified the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department and an investigator was sent to the school.
The girl told the investigator that her brother had tried to have sex with her as recently as a month earlier. She said she had told her mother, who took her to Tijuana for a pregnancy test, which was negative, but did not call authorities.
The girl was placed in protective custody and on December 26, 2007, Dr. Mary Spencer of Palomar Pomerado Health performed a physical examination. Spencer reported finding what she believed were tears of the hymen that were consistent with sexual abuse.
That same day, the girl was interviewed on videotape by a counselor at Palomar and the girl recounted incidents of sexual abuse that she said began at age six when they still lived in Mexico.
Galicia was brought in by police for questioning. Police said he confessed to having intercourse with the girl twice. Galicia said that he made the statement only after police said that if he told them how many times he touched the girl, he and his family could go home.
He answered: “Two?” and was arrested.
On March 3, 2008, Galicia was charged with five counts of sexual abuse.
On April 14, 2008, the girl’s six-year-old sister was also interviewed at Palomar and did not report being abused. But during a second interview with the sister on April 21, the younger girl described being touched by Galicia, but said there was no penile penetration.
As a result, the state amended the charges to add three more counts against Galicia.
Prior to trial, Galicia’s lawyer moved to suppress his statement during interrogation. At the suppression hearing, one of the investigating officers admitted that he lied to Galicia to get a confession.
The court suppressed the confession for all purposes, including impeachment. The court determined the officers had flagrantly violated Galicia’s rights by lying and telling him that if he simply said a number (it was implied that number was supposed to be the number of times he molested his sister) then Social Services would return the children to their home and he could go home too.
Galicia went on trial before a jury in December 2008.
The video of his sister was played for the jury. The sister testified about the incidents and said that Galicia had threatened to hurt her or her family if she told anyone.
The girls’ foster parent, in whose home they were placed after the allegations were raised, testified that at first the girls told her about the abuse, but then began to recant.
They also recanted to the police, the prosecutor and the social workers. The older sister said she wanted to punish Galicia for telling her mother that she had a boyfriend when she was not supposed to have one. She said that Galicia caught her with a boy and reported it to her mother. She said she had never had sex with anyone.
Both girls recanted in front of the jury. The prosecution contended that the children recanted because they were pressured by their family.
A friend of the older girl testified that the girl told her of the abuse before the note or attempt to run away.
Although Galicia’s statement to police was suppressed, the older girl testified that when the social worker told her that Galicia had been arrested, the counselor told her “that he had been coerced by the (District Attorney) to admit to being guilty.” The statement was stricken from the record, but the jury heard it.
The defense called Dr. Lynne Ticson, who testified that Spencer’s report was incomplete and inconsistent. Ticson testified that based on the report, the girl had never had sex—that what Spencer thought were tears were more likely skin folds.
Furthermore, the defense called Galicia’s girlfriend, who testified that he suffered from erectile dysfunction and was physically incapable of having intercourse.
At the close of the evidence, the prosecution dismissed six of the eight counts. The jury convicted Galicia on December 17, 2008 of the two remaining counts. He was sentenced to two concurrent terms of 15 years to life.
While the case was on appeal, the family contacted Los Angeles attorney Shannon Dorvall, who began to investigate the case.
She arranged for two separate examinations of the older girl by physicians. Dr. Neysa Whiteman performed an examination on June 29, 2010 and found no signs of trauma. Dr. Carlos Olivia of the Vista Family Health Center conducted an examination on July 5, 2010, and found no signs of trauma or tears of the hymen.
The results of the two examinations were sent to the San Diego District Attorney’s Office, which asked for a third examination. Dr. Premi Thomas Suresh at Children’s Hospital in San Diego examined the girl on September 2, 2011, and said there were no tears of the hymen.
As a result, a petition for a state writ of habeas corpus was filed September 26, 2011. The District Attorney’s Office did not oppose the petition.
On November 22, 2011, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Runston Maino vacated the conviction, the charges were dismissed and Galicia was released.
– Maurice Possley