Written by AARON CASTREJON
WEST COVINA - The defense came out with both barrels blazing Monday during closing arguments in a molestation and sexual battery case against a Glendora man.
The suspect, Patrick Adam Nelson, 41, is accused of two misdemeanor counts each of sexual battery and child molestation against a then 17-year-old neighbor July 8, 2018. He faces a possible maximum sentence of one year in jail.
Nelson’s defense team of Stephanie Johnson and Robert Ernenwein took a less vocal approach during days one through three of the trial as the prosecution, which has the burden of proof, called witness after witness and painted a picture that Nelson allegedly groomed the girl for years and desired her sexually.
Ernenwein emphasized before the trial started that this was an unfair proceeding and during closing arguments stated the district attorney’s office overreacted and overcharged in this case.
Monday, Ernenwein spoke about discovery introduced late in the trial. Some of the late discovery was learned just before testimony was set to take place with certain witnesses and some was learned on the stand with little opportunity for the defense to digest it.
Allegations by the girl’s parents of Nelson slapping her buttocks while she wore a bikini and an awkward touching of her thigh during a family dinner, allegedly taking place before the 2018 incidents, weren’t included in any police reports and only came out during testimony, Ernenwein said.
The parents’ accounts of who witnessed the slap apparently didn’t match, with both parents stating they individually witnessed the incident, Ernenwein said.
Nelson is accused of touching the girl on her breasts and buttocks last year, the reason why Nelson was charged and facing jail time.
Just before her testimony May 9, the girl said Nelson also allegedly touched her vaginal area after she awoke to him touching her buttocks -- information not disclosed during discovery.
Some of the girl’s testimony focused on alcohol and marijuana edibles allegedly offered by Nelson. The defense emphasized that the items were only offered to her after the girl and her sister Cori spoke openly in Nelson's presence about consuming alcohol and marijuana. The use of the wax pen wasn’t even disclosed until last week, Ernenwein said.
During her testimony, the girl stated she only remembered Nelson offering marijuana after a therapy session and on cross examination, she said she initially didn’t include it during a police interview to keep Nelson from being in more trouble than he already was in.
Ernenwein also questioned why the prosecution didn’t put Nelson’s parents, Glendora Mayor Judy Nelson and her husband Byron Nelson, on the stand as percipient witnesses.
The cornerstone of the defense’s closing argument is that Nelson had no ill intent during the 2018 incidents, that touching the girl the way he did was done out of awkwardness and the prosecution did not prove criminal intent required for a sex offense.
The girl’s father, Brian, on a secret recording, asked Nelson if he was aroused by touching her, which Nelson always denied.
Regardless of the alcohol and marijuana consumption, Ernenwein emphasized Nelson is only being charged with child molestation and sexual battery, not contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The defense conceded that Nelson did make terrible decisions throughout his relationship with the girl and her family.
Ernenwein acknowledged that Nelson’s texting of explicit messages to a teen girl is, in his words, totally inappropriate and that allowing a teen access to alcohol and marijuana is illegal under the law and he is likely guilty of battery, but a child molester he is not.
“His conscience led him to speak to Brian [the girl’s father] ... Pat Nelson is a lot of things --some good, some bad -- but he has a conscience. His disclosure was complete and it was gut-wrenching,” Ernenwein said.
The prosecution’s rebuttal to the defense's closing argument is scheduled for May 14 at 9 a.m. at the West Covina Courthouse before deliberation is set to begin.