Accused child molester Jeffrey Ray Nielsen sent a 14-year-old Westminster boy an email seeking "something quick" in the middle of a school day when the boy's mother was at work. The boy testified that the quickie Nielsen was angling for meant sex, which they had on his mother's bed. After all, he noted, the two had met at gaymen4sexnow.com and secretly rendezvoused three times. Nielsen, once a congressional aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and pals with Orange County Republican Party boss Scott Baugh, acknowledged that he drove to the boy's trailer home that day in 2003, but insisted the meeting was for lunch, not sex.
On March 12, after three days of deliberations, a Newport Beach jury declared itself hopelessly deadlocked.
The outcome wasn't surprising. After stalling the case for almost four years, the defense got to attack a victim who—surprise!—looked much older and had trouble remembering details. They also blocked the jury from seeing 99 percent of Nielsen's huge child pornography collection (men having intercourse with boys who appear to be younger than 10 years old; boys having sex with boys, boys posing nude, boys with erections, etc.) and considering Nielsen's disturbing three-year love interest in a 7th grade Virginia boy known here as "Billy." Nielsen lived with the boy's family while he worked for Rohrabacher in Washington, D.C. a decade ago.
"You hold a most important place in my heart, and the memories that I have of you and our time together I will keep near to me for the rest of my life," Nielsen, 36, wrote to the Virginia boy after "Billy" had broken off their relationship. "On the 8th grade picture you gave me of yourself last year, you wrote on the back, 'Jeff, I'll always love you, no matter how far away you are. Just think of me and I'll be there. Love, Billy.' I will look to that when I think of you."
Last year, Billy—who is now married to a woman—told the Weekly and then the Orange County District Attorney's office that Nielsen had repeatedly molested him while he was in middle school. Indeed, the boy says he was "brainwashed" against his parents and a female classmate he fancied. Nielsen had met Billy when he volunteered to mentor a Virginia church group for teenage boys. Eyewitnesses to Nielsen's romantic interest in the boy include a kid who is now an FBI agent.
After the deadlock, District Attorney Tony Rackauckas huddled somberly with Dan Hess, the prosecutor on the case, and announced they will retry Nielsen. There is concern in the DA's office that Hess wasn't able to match Paul Meyer, Nielsen's high-priced, hard-charging defense lawyer. For example, a boneheaded prosecution mistake caused a judge to dismiss the kiddie porn possession charges last year on a technicality.
But Hess told reporters he won't be replaced as prosecutor when the case is retried.
Rackauckas, meanwhile, says he is "adamant" about bringing Nielsen, who met teen-age boys through his MySpace account, to justice.
"This defendant molested a child," he said. "We want to make sure this man doesn't victimize another underage boy."
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The next round, a pre-trial hearing, is scheduled for April 6.