Wednesday, October 21, 2015

People v. Woods (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 20, 2015)

Man ("Woods") meets Woman ("A.C.") while both of them are playing "Worlds of Warcraft" online.

Man is in California.  Woman is in Rhode Island.  Indeed, Woman is married, and has a twelve-year old daughter, as well as three stepsons of her husband.

Woman plays way too much WoW.  (From what I hear, this seems to be a common problem.)  Her twelve-year old daughter ("Daughter") plays WoW as well.  Woman plays so much WoW that her marriage breaks up, since her husband isn't happy she's playing the game at all hours to the neglect of her family.  Fair enough.

Woman and Daughter thus move out of the house, and Woman continues to hang out online with Man.  Ultimately, Man and Woman plan to meet.  Man drives from California to Rhode Island to finally meet Woman in person.

I know you're thinking that I'm now going to say that Man kidnaps Woman, or Woman turns out to be a Man, or aliens invade or something like that.  Nope.  No such weirdness.

Okay, well, a little weirdness.  This is a criminal case after all.

First, the ages are not what you might suspect.  This isn't a 45-year old male trolling for a 14-year old woman.  Woman is 31.  Man is . . . 19.

Not what you initially thought, eh?

But that's fine.  Relationships -- particularly online relationships -- come in different styles.  I'm down with that.

You'll nonetheless notice that Man is actually closer in age to Daughter (a gap of 7 years) than he is with Woman (a gap of 12 years).

Though, to reiterate, Daughter is twelve.  Not good.

So now you can figure out why this is a criminal case.

Daughter sleeps in between Man and Woman at the hotel, Man allegedly molests Daughter, and Woman allegedly ignores Daughter's pleas.  Man then moves to Rhode Island and lives with both Woman and Daughter; ironically, in Woman's parent's home.  Man allegedly continues to molest Daughter, pretty much every day, and this continues a long time, including when Man, Woman, and Daughter move into their own place in Rhode Island, and then when they're all living together once they move to San Diego.

Hence why it's a criminal case in California.   (Parenthetically:  In San Diego, the group initially lives with Man's father, stepmother, and grandfather.  Keeping everything in the family again.)

I'll spare you the details of the alleged daily molestation, which the Court of Appeal spells out in exhaustive detail.  But I will give you one line from the opinion, which is also unusual:

"A.C. [Woman] would occasionally participate in the sexual encounters between C.C. [Daughter] and Woods [Man]. . . . At some point, Woods began taking pornographic photographs and videos of himself, C.C., and A.C. engaged in various sex acts."

Ick.  Especially ick.

I'll leave aside the abortion, some other gross stuff, and the abuse.  Here's another piece of the story -- which comes only pretty late in the opinion -- that you don't usually see in these types of cases:

"C.C. testified that at some point in time, as early as when the three were living in Rhode Island, she developed romantic feelings for Woods and began to regard him as her boyfriend. She started to act 'like a girlfriend.' C.C. testified that she believed she 'should make [herself] like him and it will make it easier.' She also testified that once she began regarding Woods as her boyfriend, she and Woods went out on dates, and she occasionally initiated sex with him. C.C. told Woods that she loved him on a daily basis, and made plans for a future with Woods."

As you can figure out, ultimately, the authorities get involved.  Here's how the whole sordid tale comes to an end:

"In early January 2012, A.C. called the police after Woods was violent toward her and C.C. Woods had pushed A.C. down to the floor and had thrown C.C. onto the bed so hard that the bed broke. After A.C. and C.C. left the house, Woods sent A.C. threatening text messages. In the first, he said, "I'm going to find you and kill anyone you're with." Another said, "I'm killing myself and all the animals with me. Fuck you guys." A.C. was concerned that he would follow through on his threats.

The law enforcement officer who investigated the incident noted that Woods was six feet tall, and weighed 245 pounds. C.C. was "much smaller." C.C. did not mention the sexual abuse to the officer because her mother had told her not to say anything about it, and she feared she would "get taken away" from her mother.

Shortly after this incident, C.C. went to West Virginia to live with a "friend."

In early March 2012, Woods met Brittany M. online and they began a romantic relationship. Later that month, Brittany moved in with Woods at his father's home in Ramona. On August 9, 2012, Brittany called the sheriff's department to report that Woods possessed child pornography. Woods had given Brittany two computer memory sticks and asked her to destroy them. Brittany eventually discovered that the memory sticks and Woods's computer contained explicit pornographic images and videos involving C.C., whom Brittany knew was the daughter of Woods's ex-girlfriend, and a minor.

A few weeks after Brittany contacted the authorities, police executed a search warrant and seized Woods's computer, cellular telephones and a computer tower. A forensic examiner found "thousands" of pornographic pictures and videos depicting C.C., Woods, and A.C. on these devices.

Woods and A.C. were arrested. A.C. cooperated with police and eventually pled guilty to committing lewd acts with a minor, felony child abuse, and felony accessory after the fact. A.C. testified for the prosecution at Woods's trial."

Woods ultimately gets sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 53 years in prison.  The Court of Appeal reverses some of his convictions for failure to instruct on some lesser included offenses, so that's a partial victory for him.  But likely a temporary one.  He's still in prison.  And still facing a retrial.  At which he may well be convicted again.

Plus his fellow inmates aren't likely to appreciate the nature of his offenses.

So thing look bleak for Woods whatever way you cut it.

And remember, he was 17 when this all started.  Playing World of Warcraft and flirting with a MILF online.

Things went badly after that.  Incredibly, incredibly badly.  For everyone involved.