In May 2001, 44-year-old Frank Lind was arrested on charges of sexually molesting a teen-aged boy named Jacob in Sanger, California.
Lind had been convicted of molesting two young boys in 1987 and served eight years of a 16-year prison term.
In August 2002, Lind went on trial in Fresno County Superior Court on seven counts of lewd acts with a child. Jacob testified that Lind befriended his parents in 1999 and did odd jobs for them, including refurbishing some apartments owned by a relative and repairing their vehicles.
Although the family and their pastor knew of Lind’s past, he was welcomed into the family’s church and was baptized into the congregation.
Jacob, who was 15 years old when he testified, told the jury that he met Lind when he was a 13-year-old eighth grade student. He said he wanted to be a professional motorcycle rider and was happy that Lind allowed him to help out at Lind’s job working on cars and motorcycles.
Jacob said that Lind began molesting him in June of 2000. The first time, Jacob said, he and Lind were sitting by a swimming pool at Lind’s home and Lind grabbed his penis. Later, Jacob said, Lind touched his tongue to Jacob’s penis.
Over the next year, Jacob said, Lind orally copulated him numerous times, including in Lind’s truck, in the office of the vehicle repair shop where Lind worked, in an orchard and in Lind’s home.
He said that on one occasion, he was in Lind’s truck with a friend when Lind attempted to grab his penis. Jacob said he had never experienced any sexual activity before and that on another occasion, Lind showed him how to put on a condom.
Jacob said that he reported the molestation to his mother in May 2001 after he became upset with Lind when a motorcycle that Jacob was riding broke down. Jacob blamed Lind for the breakdown and in response, Jacob said, Lind touched his inner thigh and said, “No play, no bike.”
Jacob said that after his mother called police, he was interviewed and denied he had been molested. A few days later, however, he called police and said he had been molested. He said he had told a friend about the molestation on a prior occasion, but his friend didn’t believe him.
Jacob also testified that he had told his father about the molestation about 10 days before police were called, but nothing was done and he continued to hang around Lind because his mother would have become suspicious if he stopped seeing him.
He admitted that nine days before he accused Lind of molesting him, he gave Lind a letter saying he and his family would always be Lind’s friends and support him.
Jacob also testified that he knew that Lind had been convicted years earlier of molesting two teen-aged boys.
Lind’s attorney sought to cross-examine Jacob about an allegation made prior to Lind becoming friends with the family—that Jacob had sodomized a cousin and had worn a condom. The lawyer also attempted to introduce evidence that Jacob had forged two checks on Lind’s bank account after Lind was arrested. The trial judge, however, refused to allow the questioning on either subject.
Lind testified in his own defense and denied molesting Jacob. He admitted his prior convictions and said he had gone through sex offender treatment in prison and eventually married and moved to Fresno County. He said he informed Jacob’s parents about his past not long after they met. He said that they became good friends and that they invited him to attend their church and supported his baptism.
Lind said on the day of the motorcycle breakdown, he brought the motorcycle to the family home and said he wanted to test drive it first, but Jacob was so adamant that he ride it first that he pushed Lind off the motorcycle and took off. Jacob returned angry, pushing the bike by hand.
The following Sunday, Jacob attempted to shake Lind’s hand and apologized, asking if he could help Lind work on motorcycles. After first brushing Jacob off, Lind agreed and Jacob joined Lind the next day. While they were working, Jacob said, “You know, my mom said that if…I ever said anything about you, you would go to prison for life.” Lind said he became angry and told Jacob to leave. Jacob left and called his mother to report that Lind had molested him.
Ben Mathew, owner of the repair shop where Lind worked, testified that he saw Lind with Jacob many times and never saw anything inappropriate.
A youth coordinator at the church that Lind and Jacob’s family attended testified that Jacob constantly lied and was disruptive.
A friend of Jacob’s testified that he was in the truck on the day that Jacob said Lind tried to grab his penis and that nothing happened.
A bishop at the church that Lind and Jacob’s family attended testified that he knew of Lind’s background and that in conversation, Lind appeared to have accepted responsibility for his past actions and was remorseful. The bishop said that Jacob was the most untrustworthy person he knew and was a very troubled young man.
On August 8, 2002, a jury convicted Lind of one count of lewd conduct with a child stemming from the very first incident at Lind’s swimming pool. The jury could not reach a verdict on the remaining six charges and a mistrial was declared. Those charges were dismissed and Lind was sentenced to 30 years to life in prison.
In June 2004, the California Court of Appeal reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court held that the trial judge erroneously excluded the defense’s evidence that Jacob had been accused of molesting a cousin and using a condom prior to the time period that Jacob said Lind molested him, and the evidence that Jacob had stolen money from Lind’s account after Lind was arrested.
“Evidence regarding Jacob’s prior use of a condom and forgery of (Lind’s) checks were not merely cumulative impeachment evidence,” the court held. “Evidence regarding Jacob’s prior use of a condom was evidence that went to the heart of the issues at trial. Jacob claimed he was a sexual innocent and that he had no prior sexual experiences or knowledge of how to use a condom.”
“Furthermore, evidence that Jacob forged checks belonging to (Lind) after (Lind) was arrested would have further impeached his credibility,” the court said. “In addition, the evidence would have demonstrated that Jacob sought to harm (Lind). This would have been highly relevant here, where (Lind) argued Jacob fabricated the charges against him because of some unknown animus against him.”
On June 6, 2005, the Fresno County District Attorney’s office dismissed the charge and Lind was released.
– Maurice Possley