A three-day detention hearing was held for James Stewart and Teri Sanchez who have been charged with the heinous crime of prostituting a seven-year-old child.
One witnessed testified the child has been diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome and has an extremely low IQ.
James Stewart is charged with human trafficking, promoting prostitution, criminal sexual contact of a minor and other crimes.
Teri Sanchez is charged with child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
THE COURT MADE THE RIGHT DECISION NOT TO RELEASE
In denying the release of the two defendant, State District Judge Alisa Hart recited a list of allegations recounted by witnesses during the hearing including:
1. A teacher said the 7-year-old girl came to school in bloodstained underwear, and another school staff member said she had hickeys on her neck and chest.
2. Teri Sanchez was alleged to have hit the child in the face, used her to panhandle and dressed her up for “secret parties with strippers”
3. James Stewart was alleged to have forced the child to “touch his friends in a sexual manner in exchange for drugs and paraphernalia,” and touched her in a way that made her uncomfortable.
What is amazing is that a public safety assessments report prepared for Judge Alisa Hart recommended that both defendants be released with the assessments based largely on past convictions and pending criminal cases.
In the case of Teri Sanchez’s, it was recommended that she be released with no conditions.
In the case of James Stewart, it was recommended he be released with medium-level court-ordered supervision.
State District Judge Hart totally disagreed and rejected the recommendation to release and said:
“The alleged offenses against James Stewart are so morally reprehensible it brings into question defendant Stewart’s willingness or capability to follow the most basic mores. … It’s my belief that Mr. Stewart controls Ms. Sanchez … and if she is released and he is detained, I still believe that he will have control over her, he will have a means to gain access and influence over the children.”
Among the reasons Judge Alisa Hart listed for ruling that Sanchez must stay in custody is that she also felt that defendant Teri Sanchez was diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome and has an extremely low IQ, between 65 and 68, making all the more likely he will have control over the co-defendant.
State District Judge Alisa Hart must be commended for her decision in denying the release of both defendants and that they be held until time of trial.
There is no doubt that Judge Alisa Hart is one of the better State District Court Judges on the bench and is a credit to the Judiciary upholding the highest of judicial standards of fairness and impartiality.
WHAT WAS THE COP THINKING?
During the three-day detention hearing for James Stewart and Teri Sanchez it was revealed by a teacher that on an November 14, 2017, the child went to school unkempt and smelling of urine.
When the teacher helped the child change into clean clothes, the teacher saw the child had blood on the crotch of her underwear.
The teacher removed the underwear from the 7-year-old student and saved it for investigators.
During the detention hearing, the teacher testified when a police officer came to the school the following day, the APD officer said they could not use the underwear as evidence and threw the clothing in the dumpster.
She said the officer told her the underwear had not been kept in a secure location and that the police office said “they’re going to have a field day if this ever went to court.”
What is very disturbing is that in the police offense report, the APD officer actually mentions the bloodstained underwear but did not say what happened to it nor does the report mention why it was thrown in the trash.
The teacher saying that the underwear was potential evidence shows that the teacher knows more about the law and the “rules of evidence” than the cop did just by using her common sense.
All too often, DNA evidence found in blood and a victim’s testimony are the only evidence available to obtain a conviction for rape and child sexual abuse.
DNA evidence found in rape kits is the type of evidence used to identify and convict rapists, especially serial rapists.
The problem is, the fact that the child’s underwear was thrown away means that no one will ever know if the blood on the child’s underwear was her blood or the blood of either defendants.
Any forensic testing results of bodily fluids such as blood and seaman would probably be enough to sustain a conviction for child rape and abuse.
APD STANDARD OPRATING PROCEDURES
When the cop said of the underwear “I can’t take them because they weren’t in an extreme — secure location” it is apparent the officer did not understand, know or realize he had no business discarding the evidence and acting like a judge.
The police officer should have taken the evidence and tagged it into evidence.
The requirement of keeping evidence in a “extreme-secure location” applies to evidence collected by law enforcement to ensure “chain of custody”.
There is no such requirement placed on victims or witnesses to crimes who turn over evidence to law enforcement, which is what the teacher was doing with the child’s blood-stained underwear.
The process for tagging evidence is clear from reading APD’s standard operating procedure.
APD’s Standard Operating Procedures provide in part as follows:
“2-73 SUBMISSION OF EVIDENCE, CONFISCATED PROPERTY, AND FOUND ITEMS 2-73-1
A. … Officers will tag all found, safekeeping and evidence items using the Officer Input Module (OIM) evidence accounting tracking system. A supervisor’s signature and completed log sheet is required to authorize the use of hard copy evidence tags for exigent/unusual circumstances like OIM system outages.
B. Items to be Tagged
2. All articles of evidence, safekeeping, and found items will be tagged/entered into evidence using OIM and submitted to the Evidence Unit and deposited in substation drop boxes by the end of the officer’s tour of duty. Only a supervisor due to exigent or unusual circumstances can authorize exceptions to this; however, the evidence must be placed in a secure setting within a police building such as a safe or a locker or cabinet that can be secured under the direct control of the supervisor. Also, the tagging officer will seal all evidence tagged either in plastic or paper bags. The officer will ensure that sealed evidence bag has the officer’s initials and date across the seal, using a permanent type marker, before placing the evidence in a locker. Failure to place initials and date across the seal will result in rejection of the evidence. Large items that cannot be placed in bags will have the evidence tag affixed to them. The officer will ensure that sealed evidence bag has the officer’s initials and date across the seal, using a permanent type marker, before placing the evidence in a locker. Failure to place initials and date across the seal will result in rejection of the evidence.
What happened with the physical evidence in this case makes one wonder what the hell are they teaching at the APD police academy when it comes to standard operating procedure policy.
The teacher knew more about the law of evidence using her common sense than the cop who investigated the case and wrote the report.
It was bad enough that an innocent seven-year-old child was victimized and perhaps raped.
What will be unconscionable is if the offenders are not brought to justice all because a police officer failed to understand APD standard operating procedures, declined to take evidence from a victim and a witness in a case and unilaterally made the decision to trash the evidence.