Things have been looking up for accused child molester Jeffrey Ray Nielsen, the 36-year-old Christian conservative activist and lawyer with close ties to Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher and Scott Baugh, head of the Orange County Republican Party. Police say Nielsen took a 14-year-old Westminster boy as his sex partner in 2003 and maintained a huge cache of man-boy pornography.
But prosecutors have allowed their case against Nielsen, once an intern in the district attorney's office, to stall for 40 months.
Ironically, those delays have provoked new sex-crime allegations. Saying he fears a subversion of justice, a northern Virginia man claims that Nielsen repeatedly molested him when he was an adolescent.
"For two years, when I was 13 and 14 years old, Jeff sexually abused me while he worked in Washington for Rohrabacher as a legislative aide," the 25-year-old married man told the Weekly in a recent interview. "There was never any penetration, but other than that? Everything. He wrapped it all up as normal, as love."
Paul S. Meyer, Nielsen's Costa Mesa-based defense attorney, did not respond to requests for comment.
The Virginia man, who asked to remain anonymous, said Nielsen worked in his church's youth ministry and that his parents rented Nielsen a basement room in their home sometime in 1994 or 1995.
"Jeff took an immediate liking to me," he said. "When he moved into our house, [the sex] started right away. I know this might sound weird, but at the time he was a mentor and he assured me the messing around was normal. I believed him. I was in the seventh grade at the time. It was brainwashing."
He says Nielsen orchestrated a "boyfriend-girlfriend type" relationship that included occasional public kissing, hand holding and sex.
"Jeff called it 'our thing,' and one time we were near Tyson's Corner [Virginia], he stopped at a gas station so we could have sex in the bathroom," the man said. "A guy walked in and caught me with my pants down and Jeff on his knees. We made some excuse about an injured knee or something. The guy said, 'Oh!' and quickly left."
There was also jealousy when the boy expressed an interest in girls, according to the victim.
"[Nielsen] was very controlling and emotional," he said. "After sex, he'd sometimes say, 'You know you are gay, right?' But I wasn't. I've been married now for three years and have a great relationship with my wife. I am very much heterosexual."
The abuse stopped, according to the man, when Nielsen moved back to California to attend USC law school after receiving a personal recommendation from Congressman Rohrabacher.
"When he was leaving, he asked me why I wasn't crying," the man said. "I was so relieved that he would finally be gone."
In the unresolved 2003 Orange County case, police say Nielsen, then 33 years old, in the closet and a lawyer at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, started dating a high school freshman at Westminster High School. Based in part on confiscated correspondence, police allege that Nielsen romanced the boy. He took him to dinner and gave him flowers, cops say. They also claim Nielsen repeatedly used the minor for oral and anal sex at his Ladera Ranch townhome and at the boy's Westminster residence while his mother was at work.
During years of preliminary hearings after his arrest, Nielsen has shown little outward anxiety about the case. He's routinely smiled and giggled in court with his father, Ben Nielsen, the former Republican mayor of Fountain Valley. To friends, Nielsen blamed the boy for seducing him after they met in an online gay chat room. He's also told friends that the charges would be reduced or dismissed if the Weekly, which has attended dozens of hearings, would follow the lead of The Orange County Register and ignore the case. (In fact, the Reg favorably mentioned Nielsen in September 2005 without telling readers that he's an accused child molester.) In an April 2005 e-mail to his friends, Nielsen encouraged them not to cooperate with the Weekly's investigation into the charges. Nielsen's well-connected friends have strenuously lobbied this paper not to profile their pal.
This newest allegation won't surprise law enforcement. After Nielsen's arrest, two other East Coast men told authorities that as young teens they'd also witnessed Nielsen's conduct with boys. Their observations led authorities to the Virginia man. Two years ago, a DA's investigator called to ask if he'd been abused.
"I denied it," he said. "I was scared. I didn't want my parents to know. It happened right under their noses. They'd blame themselves for letting Jeff in our house, and I didn't want that."
So why is he stepping forward now?
"It's hard to believe nothing has happened to Jeff after what he's done," he said. "He's free and he still has his [law] license."
A trial is now scheduled for Oct. 16, though the date could be meaningless. The case has been postponed dozens of times, a fact that must delight Nielsen and Meyer, one of the county's savviest defense lawyers. A jury won't see a 14-year-old victim testify; they'll see someone who is older than 17.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says he was unaware of the delays, and finds them frustrating.
"Frankly, 40 months [without a trial] is outrageous," said Rackauckas, who said he has asked his staff for an explanation. "It's valid for people on the outside to question what's happened here. There's no excuse for delaying this anymore."
For a related story, see "NAMBLA Fantasy," Oct. 6, 2005.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.