Recently, a client retained our services to assist with a serious criminal matter in which he was being investigated. The day before he came to our office desperately seeking our help, he had received a telephone call from the Montgomery County Police Department (“MDPD”) and the officer informed him that he was being investigating for having committed sexual abuse many years earlier.
Not knowing what the officer was talking about and fearing the repercussions if he said the wrong thing, the client refused to discuss the alleged incident without speaking to a criminal defense attorney first.
Upon being retained, this case became top priority. Our criminal defense attorneys immediately contacted the investigating officer to discuss the status of the investigation. The officer was preparing the necessary paperwork to immediately charge the client with sexual offense in the third degree.
If the client was charged and convicted of sexual offense in the third degree, he would face up to ten (10) years in jail. But for this client, the bigger concern was the immigration consequences he would be subject to. Like many of our clients, he was not a United States Citizen – the client was originally from Ecuador and is a Legal Permanent Resident (also known as a green card holder). Since immigrating to the US, he has built a successful career and life for himself in Montgomery County, MD.
However, if convicted of sexual offense in the third degree, he would have faced the most severe immigration consequences. The client likely would be considered an aggravated felon for immigration purposes. This is important because it means he would not be eligible for bond while his immigration court proceeding was pending. The client would have to sit in jail for weeks or even months until such time that he appeared before an Immigration Judge. After more than a decade living in the US as a legal permanent resident, he would likely be removed from the US – sent back to Ecuador to start his life completely over.
Our attorneys could not allow this to happen. They were able to convince the officer to hold off on filing charges, which would allow our team a little time to speak with our client and any other witnesses. Having only been given a very short time frame to collect evidence, the team’s next move was to immediately meet with the client to get his side of the story.
During this meeting the client explained that several years ago he was at a big party with all of his extended family. During the party, the client attempted to encourage one of the young children to go and play with her siblings and cousins by patting her on buttocks.
At the time, the client didn’t think twice about his actions. He had no malicious or sexual intent. He was merely encouraging and reassuring a young child that it was okay to join in the games being played by the other children at the party. The client did not touch the child further and his actions were witnessed by several other adult family members, all of whom did not a comment or question him.
The client never thought about it again until our criminal defense attorneys explained that the officer was investigating his actions at this party. According to the officer, recently, while at school, the child was talking about the party that had happened so many years ago. A teacher overheard the child mention that an adult family member had touched her buttocks. As required by law, the teacher reported it to child protective services who in turn reported it to MCPD.
After obtaining the facts from our client and thoroughly researching the law, our attorneys knew he was innocent of any wrongdoing. In the few remaining hours that they had before they needed to call the investigating officer back, the attorneys took every available step to secure any additional evidence that could help prove the client’s innocence. Although the attorneys were on a very short time deadline, they reached out to numerous family members who were present at the party and who may have witnessed the event in question.
Armed with all the evidence our office had collected detailing our client’s innocence, our attorneys contacted the investigating officer. For our client’s protection all communication with the officer was done strictly through our attorneys – the client never spoke with the officer, which ensured that he would never say anything that could be misconstrued or hurt him. After speaking with our criminal defense attorneys and being presented with the evidence they had collected, the investigating officer was persuaded that no sexual abuse had occurred and decided not to pursue the case any further. Subsequently, he closed the case.
The teacher who overheard the child did just what she was supposed to do – the mandatory reporting laws are in place to protect children and she was doing her job by reporting what she had heard. But, thankfully for our client, after our experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys got involved and came to his aid, it was proven that this had all been a misunderstanding. Due to the persistence and dedication of our criminal defense attorneys, this person would not be falsely charged with a crime. Had the client spoken to the investigating officer on his own, without the assistance of our criminal defense attorneys, things may not have worked out in his favor.
If you or a loved one is under investigation for a possible crime, the key is early intervention by a competent and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don’t be afraid – contact Anthony A. Fatemi and his legal team today so they can defend you just as they did for this client.