In an unanimous decision critical of the Carson District Attorney’s office, three members of the Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of child sex assault charges against Jeffrey Volosin.
District Attorney Neil Rombardo said his office would appeal the ruling by the three-judge panel, asking for an en banc hearing before all seven justices.
Volosin was charged in Dec., 2012 with 10 counts of sexual assault and two counts of lewdness with a child under age 14.
The victims, sisters, were both under age 10 when the alleged abuse began.
The Public Defender’s office challenged the charges saying the criminal information didn’t give a reasonable amount of detail as to when the crimes occurred for Volosin to defend himself against the charges.
The justices agreed saying exact times and places for the alleged assaults aren’t necessary but some indication of a time line of incidents is so the defendant can prepare a defense.
While the prosecution argued that time is not an element of the crime, District Judge James Wilson agreed the charges were so vague they violated the defendant’s 6th Amendment right to be informed of the nature of the actions against him and his 14th Amendment right to due process.
He gave the prosecutors time to file an amended set of charges but no new information was ever filed so Wilson dismissed the case with prejudice.
The DA’s office appealed but on Tuesday, the high court affirmed Wilson’s ruling, criticizing the prosecution for failing to properly investigate the case before filing any charges.
The charges originated from a separate investigation in South Lake Tahoe that turned up allegations the two girls were abused while living in Carson City. The report said the abuse continued from ages 7-9 in one case and from 6-15 in the other case.
Volosin faces an 11-count complaint filed by the El Dorado County District Attorney charging similar crimes including lewdness with a child and sex acts with a person under 16. He’s scheduled for a court appearance on those charges Oct. 27 in South Lake Tahoe.
California investigators turned the report over to the Carson City Sheriff’s Department but, according to the Supreme Court order, “the Carson City District Attorney appears to have filed the (charges) without performing any independent investigation.”
The situation was further complicated by the fact that, by the time the allegations surfaced, the girls were 18 and 15 years old.
“The entire investigation was performed by a California detective investigating crimes that occurred in his jurisdiction,” the decision states. “Any crimes that occurred in Carson City were not the focus of the California investigation.”
“Of particular note in this case is the glaring absence of an investigation into the abuse allegations by the state,” the ruling states adding Carson City investigators “failed to even interview the victims.”
“We conclude that the district court correctly held that the state’s charging document must allege sufficiently precise time frames to provide adequate notice to defendants,” the order concludes.
Rombardo said he believes the court “missed a significant issue.”
“The victims did testify at a preliminary hearing so why do we need an investigation by Nevada officials,” he asked.
Rombardo said he doesn’t understand why it would be necessary for Nevada investigators to interview the two girls, especially since, he said, interviewing the alleged victims again and again raises other legal issues.
“There’s case law out there through the United States federal court that if you question a child too much about this sort of thing, you’re basically leading the child to make these statements,” he said.
He said the final decision is up to the court, “but we’re at least going to ask them to consider that.”
The decision was written by Justices Kris Pickering, Ron Parraguirre and Nancy Saitta.