Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Probation Officer Joseph Gama Accused of Molesting 3 Children

That's what Shasta County Superior Court Judge Bradley Boeckman told jurors Tuesday before attorneys launched into their opening statements in the trial of a federal probation officer accused of molesting three children.

Joseph Nicholas Gama, 46, of Redding is charged with five counts of felony child molestation and three enhancements.

Deputy District Attorney Ben Hanna said that Gama is accused of molesting three young girls in two separate instances in the late 1990s or early 2000s and a third in the mid-2000s.

But, Hanna told jurors, they were not Gama's only victims. A fourth alleged victim was identified, but charges were not filed in that late 1980s case because the statute of limitations had expired. Hanna said that girl was about 13 when Gama befriended her, only to betray that trust.

"His crimes happened in secret, but now they are in the open," Hanna said after he described the alleged molestations in detail.

But Gama's defense attorney, Eric Berg of Redding, said his client is being unfairly railroaded, pure and simple.

One of the girls, he told jurors, said that she does not remember having been molested by Gama. The claims of a second girl were investigated in 2006 and dropped because of insufficient evidence, and the third girl suffers from a mental health condition that prevents her from giving or receiving affection, Berg said.

The fourth girl's story also is highly questionable because she has a history of making sexual molestation accusations, Berg said.

Berg said his client is above reproach, has long been a respected community member and was president of a youth soccer league. Gama is free in lieu of $350,000 bail.

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