CEDAR RAPIDS — A judge denied a protective order Wednesday that would have kept a Marion man from being in the same room during a deposition with a 17-year-old girl, who he is accused of sexually abusing and recording on video.
The prosecution, which asked for the protective order against 20-year-old Christian Sousley, argued that a defendant doesn’t have the right to be present during a pretrial proceeding and judges typically haven’t allowed it in cases involving victims who are minors.
Sousley, who was 18 at the time, is charged with second-degree sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a minor on April 30, 2017. He is accused of sexually abusing the girl, who was 15-years-old, while she was “incapacitated by alcohol” at a home in Marion, a criminal complaint shows. Two others, Jaymz Plummer, then 17, and a 15-year-old boy, also participated in the abuse and recorded the incident, according to the complaint.
Plummer, now 19, pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse and received probation, and the 15-year-old was convicted in Juvenile Court and received probation.
According to the complaint, Sousley posted the recording on Snapchat, a video and photo messaging app for smartphones, and it was brought to the attention of a school resource officer in Des Moines who alerted local authorities.
Linn County Assistant Attorney Rena Schulte argued that Sousley could watch the interview via video conference in another room. Prosecutors usually handle sexual assault cases involving minors this way, and defendants can still have contact with their lawyers because they are nearby, she said.
Schulte said the girl would likely be fearful and feel intimidated by Sousley, causing her “undue emotional harm.”
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She also argued Sousley had no constitutional right to be present at a pretrial proceeding such as a deposition.
Webb Wassmer, Sousley’s lawyer, agreed there was no constitutional right for his client to be present but argued the civil rules regarding protective orders should apply. He said it was also necessary so Sousley could ask him questions and assist in his defense.
Wassmer also said there’s no evidence that the girl would be “traumatized” because of this contact. He noted that she’s now 17 and in high school.
Sixth Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady said he didn’t think the state’s arguments were sufficient to keep Sousley from being present during deposition. He also cited the girl’s age as a reason to deny the protective order.
Wassmer also asked the court to allow him to play video of the incident during the deposition so the girl could identify people in the video, but Grady granted a protective order to the prosecution, which would stop the defense from playing it.
Grady also said Wassmer is not allowed to question the girl about the video.
After the hearing, Linn County First Assistant Attorney Nick Maybanks said he couldn’t recall in the last 10 years when a judge denied a protective order for a child victim in this situation.
“Consequently, they (defense attorneys) don’t attempt to compel a minor victim to face the accuser in a pretrial proceeding,” Maybanks said. “Also, some of our victims emotionally prepare to testify in the presence of the defendant and do so. We acknowledge that face-to-face confrontation is required at trial but it is not a constitutional right during pretrial discovery.”
Schulte also asked for a continuance of the trial but Judge Grady took it under advisement and will rule on it later.
Sousley’s trial is set to start Monday in Linn County District Court.
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