November 22, 2014

Templeton sex offender acquitted of annoying girls

6-4-2010 California:

Man allegedly annoyed girls, but witnesses say it wasn’t him; he faces further charge involving threat in court

A case of mistaken identity resulted in the recent acquittal of a 50-year-old Templeton sex offender accused of annoying underage girls.

The defendant, Billy Gene Mannon, and his lawyer say an announcement authorities issued in March warning about his loitering near a route taken by the Templeton High School girls cross country team contributed to unfair public attention.

But authorities say they had reason to suspect Mannon and to consider him a dangerous person, citing his 1986 sex-crime conviction.

In an interview Friday at San Luis Obispo County Jail, where he remained after what prosecutors said was a threatening outburst during his trial, Mannon said that he wasn’t at Templeton Market and Deli on March 15 at the time underage girls said he stared at them and called one of them “pretty.”

At the conclusion of the five-day trial, a jury on May 28 found Mannon not guilty of annoying the girls.

“The system was broken from day one,” Mannon said. “Everything went wrong.”

Chief Deputy Jerret Gran of the District Attorney’s Office wouldn’t comment on details, but said “while we disagree, we respect the decision and deliberative process of the jury.”

The trial

Mannon said he told investigators he was at the Templeton Market earlier in the day — but not at the time alleged.

Mannon was accused of telling the girl that he was staring at her because she was “pretty” after she confronted a man at the restaurant, Mannon’s lawyer said.

But defense attorney Pierre Blahnik said two adult witnesses testified during the trial that Mannon wasn’t the same man the girl spoke to that day. A much older man acted surprised by the teen’s allegation, the witnesses said.

“The man clearly wasn't my client, and it's doubtful a crime occurred, Blahnik said. After 35 minutes of deliberation, the 12-person jury found Mannon not guilty of annoying or molesting a child.

The investigation

On March 10, Mannon was stopped at Moss Lane and El Pomar Road in Templeton by sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Franklin, according to court records.

Franklin wrote in a search warrant that Mannon possessed 0.6 grams of methamphetamine, more than 300 pornographic images on his cellular phone of suspected underage girls, and binoculars.

Females often frequented the road for walking and running, and “Templeton High School students also run and exercise there, Franklin wrote in the warrant.

Mannon later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor drug possession charge. Authorities determined the images on the cell phone were of women, not underage girls.

“It’s a beautiful spot,” Mannon said about visiting Moss Lane. In the interview, he denied going there to look at women passing by. He said he carries binoculars for nature excursions.

The incident at the deli took place March 15 about 3:15 p.m., according to a sheriff’s report, and Mannon said he was having a tire repaired in Paso Robles at the time.

The alleged crime of annoying the girl at the deli was reported at 9 p.m. on March 16 — more than 24 hours after the incident, according to a sheriff’s report.

That happened to be the same day the Sheriff’s Department created a flier notifying the public that Mannon, a registered sex offender, had been loitering in an area frequented by the Templeton girls cross country team. The flier noted “Mr. Mannon is not wanted for any crime at this time.”

Detectives then created a photo lineup for the underage girls to review, and they identified Mannon as the man who had stared at them at the deli, Blahnik said. Mannon was arrested March 17.

As for the other older man who apparently spoke to the girls, the authorities do not know his identity, Blahnik said.

The aftermath

Mannon now faces a charge of making criminal threats against a prosecutor at a court hearing. He remains in custody at County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

At an April 7 hearing during his annoyance case, Mannon allegedly said, “Can we just get this thing done? If I ever find this dude, I’m going to put a rope around this dude’s neck,” referring to prosecutor Greg Devitt.

Mannon was reacting to an admitted law enforcement mistake in his case, Blahnik said. Blahnik now argues Mannon’s alleged comments weren’t meant to be threatening.

Sheriff’s investigators initially believed Mannon’s 1986 conviction in Lancaster of forced oral copulation was against a child under 14.

But prosecutors changed the annoyance charge before trial from a felony to a misdemeanor after checking with the state’s Department of Justice to confirm the victim in that earlier case was an adult.

Mannon said that he knew about the mistake in the registration and that he’d been trying to correct his status with authorities for years.

He has a hearing set for Monday and is hoping to be released from jail. He believes much of his legal trouble has been caused by his sex offender status.

He’ll appear in Judge Teresa Estrada-Mullaney’s court on a motion to disqualify the case, according to court officials. ..Source.. by Nick Wilson

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