Tuesday, 23 July 2024

Lengthy hearing results in release for man accused in rape case

LAKEPORT – A Hidden Valley Lake man who has been held in the Lake County Jail for three weeks following his arrest in connection with an alleged rape was released after a lengthy bail hearing on Friday.

John Wesley Dunn Jr., 25, was arrested on Aug. 7 on allegations of rape while using drugs to prevent resisting, kidnap with the intent to rape and assault with the intent to commit a crime.

The alleged victim, a 25-year-old Hidden Valley Lake woman, told authorities that Dunn had driven her home after she was out with friends and family having dinner and drinks on July 31.

After Dunn's arrest, Lake County Sheriff's investigators put out an additional call for information on the case, as they try to find more people who may have seen Dunn and the alleged victim together on the night of the reported assault.

Dunn's attorney, Stephen Carter, said Dunn – who has no criminal history whatsoever – is facing life in prison for just the kidnap charge alone.

Since his arrest Dunn – an assistant golf pro at Hidden Valley Lake's golf course – has been held on $350,000 bail.

But after many of Dunn's friends and acquaintances testified to his character in an unusual three-hour Friday hearing, Judge Arthur Mann released Dunn on his own recognizance.

Carter had set up a bail hearing for Aug. 21 but it was delayed after the prosecution said that the 25-year-old victim had not been notified of the hearing.

His friends returned on Friday to Judge Richard Martin's Department Two courtroom. Martin, who had a full calendar of cases on Friday, had Dunn transferred to Mann in Department Three.

Before Martin handed off the case, prosecutor Ed Borg objected to Carter being able to submit dozens of letters on Dunn's behalf to the judge, questioning their relevance to the case.

When the hearing convened in Mann's courtroom, he noted that he had read the report on Dunn's case, including a six-page report from Lake County Probation, but not the letters, acknowledging the prosecution's objections to the court acceptance the evidence.

Elaborating on his objection, Borg said the letters contain hearsay, which doesn't meet standards of evidence.

Carter replied that there was no evidentiary objection he's aware of that would keep out hearsay. He said the court routinely considers letters, and Probation Department reports also consider hearsay evidence, which he maintained is admissable at a bail hearing.

Borg replied that his concerns were centered on relevance.

Mann took a brief recess to research the question. When he returned, Carter cited a case that allowed for relaxed evidentiary hearings at a bail hearing, just like sentencing. Borg said he wasn't aware of any such evidentiary rule changes.

Carter replied that the previous week the prosecution had argued that it was the defense's duty to notify the victim of the bail hearing. “That wasn't accurate and there was no basis for it,” he said.

Mann noted that while Marsy's Law – which provides for notifying crime victims of hearings – doesn't specify who is responsible for notification, it's likely to fall to the prosecution. “That's not an issue before the court now,” Mann said.

“Out of an abundance of caution” Mann sustained Borg's objection to allowing the letters into evidence.

Borg said he would offer a stipulation testifying to statements on Dunn's moral character to save time, but Carter declined, saying that, by not allowing the letters, the court didn't have the benefit of knowing the information being presented on Dunn's behalf.

Borg then asked to exclude the witnesses, which Mann declined to do.

Over the next two and a half hours court was in session, Carter called more than 15 witnesses who supported Dunn's character. They stated he was honest, sincere and sensitive, and gentlemanly in his demeanor toward everyone, especially women.

Theresa Hart said she's known Dunn for four years, and he's been “a very positive influence” for her young son.

When Carter asked if she had seen Dunn interacting with the alleged victim, Borg objected.

“I don't believe I have to put on an evidentiary hearing that I have a good case,” Borg said.

Mann overruled, and allowed Hart to explain that a few weeks before the alleged rape she had seen Dunn and the young woman at a local bar. When Dunn came up to Hart to talk to her, she said she saw the young woman giving her dirty looks from across the room, which she believed was a result of her talking to Dunn.

Hart said at one point an upset Dunn came up and asked her for a ride home after a confrontation with the alleged victim's mother, who had accused him of being a “player” and not dancing with the young woman or buying her a drink. At Borg's objection, Mann struck that portion of testimony from the record.

Several witnesses testified that Dunn often gave people who had too much to drink a ride home, a courtesy he extended to both men and women. Borg's main question for each of the witnesses was whether or not they had ever been mistaken in their assessment of someone's character, which drew mixed responses – some said yes, some no.

Barry Silva, Dunn's best friend, called the charge against his friend “crazy,” which Mann agreed to strike at Borg's objection.

Silva said he also had seen Dunn interact with the alleged victim at a local bar. He said the young woman came up and kept grabbing Dunn and pulling him away from his friends so he would buy her drinks, which Silva said happened at least three times one evening.

Dunn didn't behave in an inappropriate manner, said Silva. “John would be the last person to do something like that.”

As the witnesses continued making their way to the stand, Borg objected to an undue use of time, which Mann overruled.

Gregory Young Sr. said Dunn had a high moral character who he once saw offer to drive home a man who had had too much to drink at Mulligan's bar in Hidden Valley Lake. He called Dunn a “stand up” citizen. “I think that's important to be said.”

Craig Sharp, Hidden Valley Lake's golf professional and Dunn's boss, also came out to support Dunn, who he's known for two and a half years. Sharp said he trusted Dunn's character.

After Carter's witnesses were finished, Borg called the alleged victim, who has a right to attend the hearing and speak.

The woman asked the court not to release Dunn and said she was afraid of him being set free.

Mann ended by ruling that Dunn be released on his own recognizance.

Dunn is next due in court in October for a pre-preliminary hearing.

Carter said he felt the ruling was a proper one, noting that his client wasn't a flight risk.

“It's not, by far, the end of the case and there's a lot more serious work to be done,” said Carter.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews .

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