There was a time in Orange County when Jeffrey Ray Nielsen, the son of a Fountain Valley Republican mayor, seemed destined for a lofty perch. Nielsen got into USC Law School based, in part, on the enthusiastic personal recommendation of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, the man who'd repeatedly take him to the nation's capital as a trusted aide. Their bond wasn't unusual, at least politically. Before his downfall, the self-styled Christian conservative--a junior Rush Limbaugh in training--liked to berate liberals and gays for destroying the nation.
The ironic Nielsen collapse began in the 1990s when he used his connections to win an internship inside the Orange County District Attorney's office. Police caught him urinating in public during a date. Even if relatively minor, that conduct didn't fit the pompous persona, but it launched one of the most precipitous falls in the county's colorful GOP history.
We may never be able to reconcile how Nielsen, who hobnobbed with Orange County's most powerful political leaders like Tom Fuentes and Scott Baugh, breathlessly targeted 7th, 8th and 9th grade boys for romance and sex while simultaneously quoting Biblical passages and hailing Ronald Reagan.
After his 2003 arrest for the lewd, determined pursuit of a troubled Westminster High School student, Nielsen told friends that his political connections would help him quietly make the case against him go away. I made sure that didn't happen by showing up at more than a dozen court hearings and writing a series of articles. That work lead me to another victim, who as a 7th grader found himself used for two years as a sexual object by Nielsen. The Rohrabacher aide had been prowling church youth groups to find underage love.
(Rohrabacher oddly tried to pretend to me that he didn't know Nielsen, a lie underscored not just by the USC recommendation but also that he repeatedly took him to Washington, D.C. to work as his aide.)
In March 2008, Nielsen--then a Ladera Ranch resident who attempted to claim he was the victim of a liberal media plot run from the Weekly offices--dropped the pretense of innocence, pleaded guilty and earned himself a 36-month stint in a California prison. (Before this, he also got nabbed for driving while intoxicated.) He lost his lawyer license and had to register as a sex offender. He did get a big gift, however. Somehow local prosecutors allowed his child pornography possession charges to lapse before a jury could consider them.
In Dec. 2009, we reported that Nielsen had been released from prison and was living in Laguna Beach.
Would he stay clean?
No. We've learned that in April 2010--just four month after his prison departure--Nielsen got drunk in Laguna Beach, crashed his car into a parked car and found himself under arrest again, according to court records.
The mistake was costly.
Because he was on parole at the time and because he'd already had a DUI conviction in addition to the sex crimes conviction, Nielsen found himself of the unhappy side of Superior Court Judge Robert Gannon in Newport Beach. His Los Angeles-based lawyer, Eugene Salmonsen--who was reprimanded in 2004 by the state bar for ethical violations--didn't help.
Gannon sentenced Nielsen to serve 90 days in jail, attend another alcohol diversion program and live under probation supervision for three years.
Worse for Nielsen, Gannon--a former county prosecutor--decided in December 2010 to also send him back to prison for four more months.
He's now free again and we're wondering what's next for the man who turns 41 years old next month.
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Our prior Nielsen coverage includes: NAMBLA Fantasy, Sex Abuse Victim Confront Ex-Rohrabacher Aide at Sentencing Hearing, New Molestation Allegation Dogs Arrested Conservative Activist and Boy Crazy.
--R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly