A man who was had pleaded no contest to engaging in lewd acts with a minor was set free Wednesday at Fresno Superior Court, even as her father begged the judge to keep the accused man behind bars.
Judge Adolfo Corona ordered Hugo Rabson, 43, to be placed on probation for three years. The judge noted Rabson had accumulated 301 days of credit already. A single violation of the judge’s orders will lead to prison time, the judge warned Rabson as the soon-to-be free man sat shackled next to his attorney.
Rabson’s case was widely circulated on social media because the victim’s father, Todd Thomas, posed as his 14-year-old daughter when he told Rabson to meet him at a park in March 2017.
Court records show that Rabson connected with the 14-year-old girl in March 2017 on the social media app Whisper. His social media alias was “Sugar Daddy.” The 14-year-old told detectives that Rabson offered to give her a cell phone so she could keep in touch with a friend who was depressed.
Her initial conversations with him were routine, but they quickly turned sexual, according to court records. Rabson was accused of asking the girl to send him explicit photos. The girl told detectives she didn’t voluntarily send him photos, but claimed that someone she met at a party took explicit photos of her and sent them to Rabson.
Rabson’s conversations with the girl soon intensified. He began requesting more photos and videos, even suggesting that she move in with him when she turned 18. All of the messages were revealed to authorities when detectives got a search warrant for Rabson’s iPhone.
It all came to end when Thomas, under the guise of his 14-year-old daughter, arranged to meet Rabson at a Clovis park. Thomas videotaped the confrontation and posted it on Facebook. The police were called and Rabson was arrested. He was booked into the Fresno County Jail on April 17, 2018. He was out the next day.
On Wednesday, the judge ordered Rabson to register as a sex offender. Rabson’s attorney, Mark Broughton, sought to have that waived, but the judge insisted on it. Though the two noted that a recently-passed law would eventually alter sex offender registrations by scaling back lifetime registration.
Judge Corona said he considered having Rabson monitored by GPS but ultimately decided against it, paving the way for less monitoring. Rabson, a dual citizen of the United Stats and the United Kingdom, was ordered to not leave the state during his probation and has a 10-year restraining order against the teen and her family.
The judge explained Rabson’s punishment by saying he was serving Rabson and the family of the girl. He also said he wanted to what was best for public safety.
But Thomas, who hurried out of the courtroom following brief remarks at the podium, saw things much differently. Setting Rabson free, he told the judge, would hurt the Thomas family more and could potentially harm others. Thomas frequently referred to Robson as a monster.
“My whole family is a victim in this. Every single one of them is a victim,” Thomas said.
Earlier, Thomas reminded Judge Corona that when he confronted Rabson at the park, he had no violent intentions and instead sought to set an example for other fathers on how they should respond when children are victimized. Keeping Rabson locked away could only further show justice to victims of sexual offense, Thomas implied.
However, the judge’s ruling was final. Thomas questioned how the court could justify releasing Rabson. He said he worried about the message the court would be sending to the public once Rabson walked as a free man in spite of the accusations.
Said Thomas: “How do I tell the next person ... to trust the system?”