When Is It Not a Crime for an Adult to Hook Up With a Seventh-Grader?

[Moxley Confidential] Are there too many holes in the case against John Stuart Moses?

“Did you make out?”

“Probably.”

“Did John get erect?”

How jurors saw the accuser
iStockPhoto/Thinkstock
How jurors saw the accuser

“I don’t remember.”

“Do you remember rubbing his penis?”

“Yeah.”

During Jensen’s cross-examination, Doe—whose mother is a felon awaiting trial on burglary, forgery, grand theft and narcotics possession charges—couldn’t decide what to say to a simple question about her physical contact with Moses, answering, “Yes, no, uh, I don’t remember.”

With his case crumbling, Mestman held his composure, directing the panel’s attention to four photographs Moses had taken of himself and Doe in the back seat of his car the last time they met, Dec. 8, 2007. In two of the images, the couple is embracing. Doe wears the face of a silly 13-year-old while a clearly much-older Moses looks worry-free and content. Two other images show Doe on top of Moses as they passionately French-kiss.

After huddling with his father, Moses decided to testify. In response to questions from Jensen, he said, “She contacted me. She asked for my telephone number. She called me later that night.”

Regarding Doe’s age, Moses said he “thought she looked young,” adding that she insisted she was 18—“otherwise, why would I bother? She lied about everything.”

Moses also relayed the story that they had looked at OC Weekly and seen an advertisement for the Bitchfits, a punk band, playing at the Doll Hut in Anaheim. He suggested they go, but Doe told him that her driver’s license had been suspended, and she had no other identification to enter the club. He accepted her lie; instead, they went shopping.

Critically, Moses disputed Doe’s claim of three encounters, saying they’d met only twice—on a Tuesday night and a Saturday afternoon. He said the Thursday-night date that Doe claims involved sex never happened.

“Nothing of a sexual nature ever happened,” he said, though he didn’t quarrel that Doe “kissed me,” “I kissed back” and they’d hugged on the other dates.

During his closing argument, Mestman urged jurors to use their “common sense,” noting that Moses had wrecked his credibility by claiming he’d had no romantic intent hopping in the back seat of his car at night with a girl.

“He’s a liar and will say anything to save his own skin,” said the prosecutor, who argued that Doe “wasn’t the best witness I ever had” and “is troubled,” but “she’s not exaggerating what happened.”

Jensen’s closing-statement theme was simple: This case reeks of reasonable doubt.

After less than four hours of deliberation, the jury of seven women and five men returned verdicts of not guilty on two of the charges. They didn’t accept Doe’s story about the sex. But even the strongest portion of Mestman’s case—the photographic evidence of lewd acts—was met with a hung jury. Three jurors refused to find Moses guilty on that count either.

Afterward, a disappointed Mestman indicated he would find “a better jury” to retry the remaining charge. But one juror told me, “I hope he doesn’t have another trial. This case is really weak, and I’m not sure there was a victim.”

rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com

This column appeared in print as "Victimless Crime: When is it not a crime for an adult to hook up with a seventh-grader?"

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