Lewd conduct case may include new allegations (Dec 18 2004)


Staff member
Lewd conduct case may include new allegations





Less than two weeks before the start of his trial on charges of lewd conduct and unlawful sex with two teenage girls, a former theater instructor has been accused of fondling and taking nude photos of a 12-year-old girl five years ago.

The new allegations against Druyan Byrne -- a 40-year-old former theater arts instructor who has pleaded notÊguilty to the charges -- were included in a motion discussed in a pretrial hearing Friday.

Prosecutors only interviewed the new alleged victim, now 17 years old, on Tuesday. They want to include her testimony to show Mr. Byrne's alleged propensity to commit sex acts with young girls. They also intend to use the 17-year-old's testimony to support the credibility of the other alleged victims in the case. In his motion to include the new allegations, Senior Deputy District Attorney Ronald Zonen called the similarities among the cases "striking."

"Evidence of defendant's history of seducing, photographing nude and molesting young girls in a similar fashion is highly probative and critically important to buffer the credibility of the complaining witness in this prosecution," Mr. Zonen said in his motion.

But defense attorney Robert Sanger argued that the new information threw the start of the trial into doubt. Set to begin Dec. 27, it is now unlikely to start before the 28th so that the two sides can argue over the admissibility of the new allegations.

Mr. Sanger said he felt blindsided by the motion coming so close to the beginning of the trial, leaving him and his investigators little time to look into the credibility of the allegations.

Beyond that, the girl's testimony would expose Mr. Byrne to a much more severe penalty in the future if new charges are filed, because of her age at the time of the alleged incidents.

"It's potentially a more serious charge then what Mr. Byrne faces at this time," Mr. Sanger said in court.

If Mr. Byrne were convicted of the charges, his attorney said, "it could be absolutely devastating."

The allegations were included in an addendum to a motion to introduce evidence of past "uncharged offenses."

Under evidence code section 1108, prosecutors can use evidence that shows a propensity to commit similar types of sex crimes. But the law limits the admissibility of such evidence if it is too prejudicial, confusing, too old or if introducing the evidence in court would simply take up too much time and create a "trial within a trial."

Along with introducing these allegations, prosecutors would also like to introduce testimony from four other girls who prosecutors say posed for Mr. Byrne.

In his motion, Mr. Zonen argued that the girls would corroborate a certain pattern of behavior by Mr. Byrne that included him befriending teenage girls in his acting classes and then suggesting that they model for him.

According to Mr. Zonen's motion, Mr. Byrne then told the young girls that if they wanted to be models, they need to be comfortable with their bodies and should pose nude.

Mr. Zonen argued that the young women should be allowed to testify because they can corroborate the stories of the alleged victims in the case.

"It would be unconscionable for defendant to be allowed to present any one of the victims as he has done: drug addicted, disturbed, manipulated; without allowing a full picture of his vast criminal enterprise," Mr. Zonen said in the motion.

"These victims are vulnerable because he has made them so. A child does not walk away from being her 40-year-old teacher's sexual surrogate without significant harm. All of his former models should be allowed to testify."

Source: http://news.newspress.com/topsports/121804byrne.htm