The lawyer for former Fresno State mascot TimeOut contended Thursday that his client is innocent of misdemeanor groping charges and that the prosecution has withheld key evidence on the eve of trial.
The arguments got testy in Fresno County Superior Court when defense attorney Franz Criego, who is defending Deandre Jean-Pierre, accused prosecutor Selena Farnesi of violating the defendant’s due-process rights by withholding evidence.
Farnesi, however, told Judge Mary Dolas that she has turned over the evidence to Criego. But when Farnesi accused him of exaggerating, the defense lawyer put his concerns on the record.
By law, Criego said, the prosecution must turn over to the defense the names and addresses of the accusers. This gives the defense a chance to interview them prior to trial, though they also can decline to comment.
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Deandre Jean-Pierre, a Fresno High graduate, was studying communications and theater arts at Fresno State, and was one of four students who performed the role of TimeOut before his arrest in December.
Criego told the judge that Fresno police arrested Jean-Pierre in early December, but the police reports that were given to him did not have the names of the accusers or their addresses. Over the past four months, Criego said he has asked Farnesi to provide the names and addresses of the accusers, but he said she never did.
On Wednesday, Criego said, Farnesi finally gave him the names of the alleged victims, but not the addresses. This created a problem, Criego said, because Jean-Pierre’s trial was scheduled to start Thursday, giving the defense only one day to track down the accusers for questioning.
Criego also said the prosecution has given him a digital tape recording that can’t be played. He also said he has not received the lab results from DNA testing of the alleged victim’s car.
According to Criego, Fresno police took DNA samples after the alleged victim told police that her attacker touched her car. Criego said the DNA lab results could exonerate Jean-Pierre. But Farnesi told the judge she does not have the lab results and doesn’t plan to use them at trial. Criego argued that the prosecution has a duty to turn over the lab results, especially if they exonerate the defendant.
In granting the prosecutor’s motion to continue the trial to Monday, Judge Mary Dolas said she hoped that any issue with the evidence could be resolved by then.
In the end, Dolas granted Farnesi’s motion to continue the trial to Monday so she can prepare her case against Jean-Pierre. In making the ruling, the judge said she hoped that any issue with the evidence could be resolved by then.
A criminal complaint charges the 23-year old Jean-Pierre, who also is listed in court documents as JeanPierre, with five counts of sexual battery. Police say the incidents involve five women who were gropped over a three-month period near the Fresno State campus. If convicted, he faces time in jail and could be required to register as a sex offender, prosecutors say.
Jean-Pierre, a Fresno High graduate, was studying communications and theater arts at Fresno State, and was one of four students who performed the role of TimeOut, a mascot who attends football and basketball games and helps with school promotions.
After Thursday’s hearing, Criego said Jean-Pierre has no criminal record and is innocent of the groping charges because police reports say at least two alleged victims are unsure if Jean-Pierre gropped them and two other alleged victims had difficulty identifying him as their attacker.
After his arrest in December, Jean-Pierre posted $1,000 bail and remains free on bail. But since his arrest, he has been kicked out of Fresno State, got evicted from his apartment, and lost several jobs, including as an actor at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, Criego said.
“How unfair is that? They have already convicted him and he hasn’t even had a trial,” Criego said.