Law enforcement officials out of San Francisco have released a police sketch of the alleged perpetrator of an attempted sexual attack on a child in Lafayette Park (Gough and Washington). Although the suspect has been described as a white male, 30 to 40-years-old, and with brown hair, police have yet to identify him. The charge is that this unidentified male, wearing an orange sweatshirt at the time, made a sexual advance toward a 7-year-old victim while the child was in the park restroom.
It is not uncommon for violations of California Penal Code 288 (otherwise referred to as the law concerning “Lewd Acts with a Child”) to be embroiled in a misunderstanding or, more simply put, in false claims from the perspective of the victim. In order to get a conviction related to this charge, prosecutors must be able to prove several elements, including this: they must be able to prove that the child in question (here defined as under the age of 14) was in fact touched in an intimate place by an adult for the express purposes of sexual gratification. That is, there must be proof that the physical contact that occurred was purposeful and that it was intended to cause sexual arousal. If even one of these elements cannot be proven, then prosecutors are left without a case.
According to California law, a conviction under CA PC 288 could end in an 8-year sentence in state prison (if no force was used) and a lifetime duty to register as a sex offender. Not only are these penalties harsh, but they may also ruin a person’s life in the sense that even an accusation of misconduct when it comes to children could cause long-lasting damage to individual’s standing in their community. It will take quite a bit of digging for police to discover what actually happened in Lafayette Park and whether it rises to the level of the attempted sexual assault on a child.