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Red-Riding Hood’s Mommy — A Wolf?

A lot of ghouls come through the Mendocino County Courthouse, scary characters who seem to gallop down from deep in the hills as the rest of us silently wonder: "These guys live here? But every so often we get something far more dispiriting than the usual crank-fueled maniac — the maniac, minus his speed, isn't a maniac when he isn't self-medicating. No, there are some crimes that make you wonder if the human species isn't doomed.

Consider the matter of The People vs. Charles Griswould and his girl friend, Jacqueline Vanbezooyen.

The predator in this case, Charles Griswould, is facing a lot of evidence that he serially molested Ms. Vanbezooyen's female child for many years, and recent developments in the case indicate that the child’s mother, Jacqueline Vanbezooyen, sexually presented her daughter to the Willits man with whom Ms. Vanbezooyen was in a romantic relationship.

Aiding and abetting, the charge against Mom is called. Sometimes aiding and abetting can be accidental, like giving some guy a lift then finding out he has just robbed a bank. But in Ms. Vanbezooyen’s case she is accused of being a conscious, deliberate aider and abetter.

The child told her mother Griswould had molested her when it first happened when she was six, and that Griswould continued to violate her over the years when Mom was present. At times, Mom placed the child in bed with Griswould.

The child grew up and started telling other people that something was terribly wrong at her home and, finally, those other people started listening, although they had a hard time believing that Ms. Vanbezooyen, employed at a childcare facility in Redway where she enjoyed a perfect work history and a righteous reputation, could possibly have committed such an horrendous crime.

Griswould, VanBeZooyen
Griswould, Vanbezooyen

When Vanbezooyen and Griswould were arrested several months ago, Ms. Vanbezooyen hired the highly publicized Beck Law firm out of Santa Rosa to defend her. Daniel Beck duly filed motions to have his new client’s case moved to Sonoma County, but these motions failed.

Griswould got stuck with a  Mendo public defender.

Beck Law then filed a series of motions to have the evidence against Vanbezooyen suppressed. These motions also failed, and last week Judge Ann Moorman gave the reasons.

The first point Beck Law wanted suppressed was a taped phone conversation between Ms. Vanbezooyen and her former spouse, Mr. Vanbezooyen.

Judge Moorman said, “I’m going to deny the motion to suppress the tape recording between the defendant and her former husband. There’s no evidence that Mr. Vanbezooyen was an agent of the government, in spite of defense’s assertions that he was, so I’ll deny that motion.”

Beck Law also wanted statements that Ms. Vanbezooyen made to investigators suppressed, suggesting that these statements were coerced.

“As for the statements made to Detective Comber and Inspector Bailey, there’s no evidence that the defendant was even in custody at the time. She was free to leave that interview; it was not a custodial interrogation, and therefore I find that the statements were voluntary, not coerced. The defendant is a mature adult in her 50s and she told the investigators she felt relieved about the investigation of her daughter’s molestation. There’s no evidence she exhibited any objection to the officers who were framing the questions, and there’s no evidence she suffered from any mental illness or other infirmity that would put her in a position to be coerced or manipulated.”

There were more motions to suppress more evidence.

When a law firm buys full-color ads for the entire back cover of the 707 Area Code phone book, you can expect that law firm to look very, very busy.

About the motion to dismiss for coercion — alleged promises made  by the investigators to entice Vanbezooyen into talking — Judge Moorman said, “I make the same conclusion as to the alleged promises of leniency to the defendant from Comber and Bailey, implied or otherwise. Defense contends that promises were made that things would go a lot better for everyone if the defendant cooperated, but I’ve heard the recording and the officers never said anything like that. Moreover, I cannot make any inference of a threat being made by the detectives that the daughter would have to go through the ordeal of taking the witness stand. That’s not a threat, Mr. Beck, it’s a fact.”

Beck seemed to be going through the motions. The child, he said, would suffer psychological damage if she had to rehearse all this sordid business on the stand — as if she hadn't already been psychologically brutalized by her mother and her mother's degenerate love interest.

Moorman said, “I don’t find evidence of a threat, and I don’t find evidence of a promise. Motion denied.”

The next motion to suppress had to do with what investigators call “pretext calls.”

A pretext call is a lure, of sorts, to draw a suspect out, and it’s probably not remarkable that a lot of good detectives retire to become accomplished fly fishermen, having mastered the art of the pretext call, the baiting of a hook, as it were.

Moorman explained her decision on the pretext call. “Now, the defendant [Ms. Vanbezooyen]  agreed to place two pretext calls to Charles Griswould, telling the officers that she wanted to help in any way she could, repeating her earlier statement that she was relieved it was all finally out in the open, and so she certainly knew what the nature of the pretext calls were. So when it comes to suppressing the pretext call made by [the child] to the defendant on March 7th, she was [or certainly should have been] aware that there were no expectations of privacy in such a situation; so I find her rights pursuant to the Fourth Amendment were not violated as a result of it having been recorded by authorities, and she had no right to a Miranda advisement.”

At the time of arrest, the Miranda Advisement must be given, and this was the next Motion to Suppress — Beck Law alleged that Mom hadn't been warned that anything she said to investigators could be used as evidence against her in court.

Moorman ruled, “On the day of her arrest she was given her Miranda rights, and she didn’t request the presence of a lawyer, but agreed to talk to the officers without one. And, no, at that point, she wasn’t free to leave like she was in the previous interviews; they were going to arrest her, and they did arrest her. So her so-called “confusion” was not credible. And the statements she made at this time were voluntary — not coerced. And the pretext call from [the child victim] did not require a Miranda advisement, as I have already noted, because she was not being arrested at that time.”

The judge then went over some of the reasons she was not going to grant Beck Law’s motion to throw out the aiding and abetting charges.

“Throughout the period, from 2005 to the fall of 2013, the defendant lived with [name withheld], a female child under the age of 14, and also with Charles Griswould. Mr. Griswould engaged in at least three sexual acts with [female child] who testified to Detective Comber that there were numerous instances of molestation by Griswould and that her mother knew about it. When they lived on Primrose Avenue in Yuba City these sexual acts included oral copulation and digital penetration, and these sexual acts continued to happen after they moved to Willits, and on each occasion Jacqueline Vanbezooyen was present, and that she made her daughter available for these types of abuse.”

"There were allegations of more sexual misconduct in Utah — from whence Charles Griswould was extradited — and those allegations remain unchallenged. The child stands by those allegations.

“When the child was between six and eight-years-old,” Moorman resumed, “the defendant placed the [child] in bed with Charles Griswould, an adult male who was not her father.”

Deputy DA Heidi Larson, the DA's prosecutor who specializes in perv cases, wanted the aiding and abetting charge to come freighted with what the law calls “intent.” Ms. Larson wanted it understood that Ms. Vanbezooyen knew not only what was going on, but that she intended it to happen, and did everything she could to ensure that it did happen.

Judge Moorman agreed.

“I’ll support the aiding and abetting theory that the sexual abuse was continuous, and I’ll find sufficient evidence of those elements required to prove the defendant shared in the same intent as the predator, Charles Griswould. It’s clear to me that the defendant was aware of the molestation and made her daughter available to Griswould. [The child] told her mother after the first time, and the defendant was present at the other times, so I’m convinced she was aware of it, and she must be liable for a conviction of aiding and abetting, and failure to protect her child from a predator; not only did she fail in her legal duty to protect her child, but she participated in the abuse.”

A man in the gallery, apparently a relative of the defendant, had lost his temper over the rulings Judge Moorman made and had to be ushered into the hall by a couple of Sheriff’s detectives. When the Beck Law team left the courtroom, they went to this guy and Dan Beck said, “Well, we lost that round.” The other guy — who apparently is paying the legal bills, just snorted in disgust. I was disgusted too, but for different reasons.

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