Paul Maurice Gould, 56, was arrested in St. Lucie, Florida yesterday after he allegedly fondled a 4 year old girl’s genitals. In an interview with police, Gould denied any wrongdoing. According to reports, he was already on pre-trial release for “for the same type of offense,” although details are not presently known.
The 4 year old girl allegedly complained to her guardian that Gould touched her genitals while she was left at the man’s house. After detectives interviewed both the girl and Gould, a decision was made to arrest him.
Gould is now facing charges for Lewd and Lascivious Battery on a Minor Under 12. Unlike sexual battery, consent is not a defense. This is especially the case where the victim is so young. In the eyes of the law, a young child does not have the mental capacity to consent or reject sexual advances – obviously.
Regardless, this offense carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Undoubtedly, child hearsay laws will play a major part in this case.
To defend Gould, his legal team will need to scrutinize the guardian’s allegation and determine if she has any credibility issues.
Knowing that he is out on bond for a like offense is a two edged sword. On the one hand, prosecutors will consider this a reason to enhance Gould’s penalties and offer a heavier prison sentence. On the other hand, if the girl’s guardian had a reason to harm Gould, the fact that he is out on bond for a sex offense makes him a vulnerable target.
As this case illustrates, all it takes is the wrong type of allegations and a person can end up in jail facing a serious felony.
I do not mean to minimize the nature of the allegations, especially if they are true. However, as a defense lawyer, I cannot make assumptions. Every aspect of a case must be investigated and nothing can be taken for granted.
If I was Gould’s defense lawyer, I would start by analyzing the exact allegation made by girl to first determine if it qualifies as a sex offense. Unbelievably, many allegations do not meet the minimum requirements of law, even though an arrest is made. And for the record, I am not talking about the kind of fondling that is done under the pants.
When analyzing the girl’s original claim, lawyers will need to be on the lookout for suggestive questioning by investigators and family friends. In many cases, a child’s original claim has been morphed into something greater by angry parents, concerned family friends, and aggressive investigators all looking to take out a “child molester.”
However, before a “child molester” can be sent to prison, our criminal justice system requires a thorough analysis of the evidence to make sure that the allegations in question are legally sufficient, that there are no credibility issues with the complainants, and that the claims were not exaggerated in any way – whether by angry parents or by investigators who ask suggestive questions.
At the end of the day, serious cases like this require the highest form of scrutiny… both for the victim and the accused.
For more information on how to defend allegations of sexual misconduct, go to: www.DefenseFlorida.com