Child’s memory in doubt, molestation charge dismissed
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
March 30, 2009 · Updated 10:51 AM
The Island County prosecutor’s office dismissed a charge against an Oak Harbor man accused of molesting a child when she was 5 years old.
The trial for 27-year-old Carlos Smith, who had been charged with first-degree child molestation, was supposed to start last Tuesday, but pre-trial hearings changed that.
Smith’s attorney, Jennifer Bouwens of Mount Vernon, said it came out late in the case that the girl didn’t have an independent memory of the alleged assault. The girl’s great-grandmother, who suffers from “slight dementia,” convinced the girl that she had been molested by a man who wasn’t clearly identified, Bouwens said.
“The little girl was very clear that she didn’t know (about the alleged crime) before she talked to her great-grandmother,” Bouwens said.
The great-grandmother, however, claimed the girl told her about it.
In court papers, Bouwens wrote that the girl said she didn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie and claimed the alleged assault occurred when she was a foot-long baby. She didn’t make the accusation until a year after she claimed it happened.
It’s an unfortunate case, Bouwens said, of a little girl being confused by adults.
Based on the information, Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock ruled that the alleged victim, who is now 7-years-old, was not competent to testify. Also, he ruled that adult witnesses could not testify about what the child said to them — so-called child hearsay — because they didn’t have sufficient corroboration.
With all her evidence suppressed, Chief Criminal Prosecutor Colleen Kenimond said she had no choice but to dismiss the case.
“We are very disappointed,” she said.
Bouwens said the accusations have had a devastating effect on her client.
“It’s difficult for him. When charges are brought, people tend to think they’re true without even looking at the evidence,” she said.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.