On November 25, 1999, 39-year-old Kenneth Faulkner was arrested in Bakersfield, California, on charges of attempting to abduct an 8-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy to commit sexual abuse.
The girl and the boy, as well as two other girls, ages 8 and 9, said Faulkner rode up to them on his bicycle and offered to give the girl and boy $20 each to go with him. They said Faulkner grabbed the 5-year-old boy by the wrist and that he grabbed the 8-year-old girl by the waist and tried to force her to sit on the handlebars of his bicycle. When they refused and ran to find their mothers, Faulkner rode away. He was arrested later that day at his home.
Faulkner had led a troubled life after being struck by a car in 1974 at age 14. He suffered severe brain damage and his IQ, which had been above 135, dipped to below 70. A few years later, he was beaten with a baseball bat and suffered additional serious head injuries.
In 1979, Falkner was convicted of abducting a woman with a pellet gun and forcing her to engage in oral sex. After serving time in prison, he was released, but was convicted in 1993 for enticing two teen-aged girls to a motel room where they became intoxicated and he refused to let them leave after they refused his demands for sex.
Faulkner went on trial in Kern County Superior Court in the spring of 2000. The 8-year-old girl testified that she was playing outside with the boy and the two other girls when Faulkner rode up on his bicycle and offered them $20 if they would come with him. The girl said he grabbed her by the waist and tried to put her on the handlebars, but she kicked him and got away. He then grabbed the 5-year-old boy by the wrist, but the boy escaped. The two other girls and the boy gave similar accounts.
On May 8, 2000, the jury convicted Faulkner of false imprisonment and attempted kidnapping of the 5-year-old boy for the purpose of committing a lewd act. The jury acquitted him of the same charges relating to the 8-year-old girl. Falkner was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison.
In September 2000, the grandmother of the 8-year-old girl went to the Kern County District Attorney’s office and reported that the girl had a history of telling lies and that she had admitted to the grandmother that her account was a lie. One of the other girls who had also testified admitted that her account was false—that Faulkner had not attempted to abduct the other two children. In fact, the girls said that Faulkner was upset because the 5-year-old boy had thrown rocks at him. An investigator for the prosecution then interviewed the two girls and both admitted they had lied.
A state petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed and a hearing was held in June 2002.
The petition was denied, but in April 2003, the California Court of Appeal reversed Faulkner’s conviction, holding that the admission by the two girls that they had lied tainted the entire trial.
On April 23, 2003, the prosecution dismissed the case and Faulkner was released. He later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit seeking damages for his wrongful imprisonment, but the case was dismissed. He also filed a claim with the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, but it was denied.
In 2006, Faulkner was convicted of annoying a child under the age of 16. He was sentenced under California’s Three Strikes Law to 25 years to life in prison.
– Maurice Possley