Mountain View Voice

News - February 25, 2011

Carbajal won't face new trial

DA decided not to retry MV man on unresolved molestation charges

by Nick Veronin

After two years in prison, Pedro Carbajal — the Mountain View soccer coach accused of raping one of his nieces and molesting two others — is almost a free man.

Carbajal was facing a possible second trial on three molestation charges. He was cleared on Feb. 16 of two counts of rape and one count of molestation. However, the jury remained deadlocked on the remaining three, and Superior Court Judge Griffin M. J. Bonini declared a mistrial, leaving the possibility that Prosecutor Dan Fehderau might seek to retry the defendant on the unresolved charges.

On Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 23, Fehderau announced that he would not seek a conviction on the mistrial counts.

Carbajal is still in prison, according to his friend Ellen Wheeler, as he still has some paperwork to iron out with Immigration and Naturalization Services. He was applying for citizenship prior to his arrest.

"Although I think the charges were correctly brought and tried in this matter, given the jury's verdict against us on three of the charges, and the jury's conflicting views on the remaining three charges, and (because) we have no new evidence to present, I think it's reasonably unlikely that we would prevail in front of a new and second jury," Fehderau, a deputy district attorney, said in a statement.

Fehderau said he had spoken with the alleged victims about his decision.

"Although they are disappointed in the result, they too would like this chapter in their lives to come to a close," Fehderau said. "In light of those circumstances we dismiss the remaining charges."

Maintaining his belief in Carbajal's guilt, Fehderau said that a guilty verdict would have provided the ultimate closure for the three sisters who claim their uncle sexually molested them when they were all around the ages of 8 and 9, between 2000 and 2005.

The eldest sister claims Carbajal raped her, an allegation not made by the two younger girls.

"The jury worked hard," Fehderau told the Voice with a sigh after the trial, "but I'm very disappointed with the end result. I think that the three victims in the case were very brave to come forward and they had nothing to gain from this, except for grief, pain and suffering."

Carbajal's lawyer, Darby Williams, expressed relief at the jury's ruling when reached by phone last week, and said that she would work to dissuade the district attorney from re-filing on the mistrial counts. It was not clear at the Voice's press deadline whether Williams played any role in preventing Fehderau pressing for a re-trial.

"Frankly, as far as I'm concerned, there is an innocent man sitting in custody right now," Williams said last week. She could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Williams acknowledged that there wouldn't have been a mistrial if some on the jury hadn't advocated for a guilty verdict on the three unresolved counts. However, she said that her discussions with jurors led her to believe that those calling for a conviction were in the minority.

She believes that many on the jury were bothered by points raised in her closing arguments.

Closing arguments

In her closing arguments, made on Feb. 7, Williams attributed the accusations to a small but weighty lie, uttered two years ago, which ultimately snowballed into an impossibly tangled web of lies and has perhaps even resulted in false memories.

"How do you tell a family for two years that you have been telling a massive, horrific lie?" Williams asked the jury at the close of the trial.

The answer to that question is simple, according to Fehderau. The girls didn't have to tell anyone they were lying, because they weren't.

"I believe the evidence was there to support all the counts," Fehderau said. While it is true that no one witnessed the crimes, he said that child molesters operate in the shadows. "These cases typically occur in private, where there aren't any bystanders."

Wheeler, a Mountain View Whisman school board member who supported Carbajal throughout his trial, wrote in an e-mail to the Voice that "Pedro broke into a huge smile in court" upon hearing that Fehderau would not pursue the unresolved counts.

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