Another Black Eye For Christianity

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Thu May 22 21:34:48 MDT 2003

Man Guilty in Toe Sucking
  Former Newport Beach recreation aide could end up in prison for the rest
of his life. One juror blames outcome on a law he considers vague.

By Zeke Minaya, LA Times Staff Writer

         A jury on Tuesday found a former Newport Beach youth recreation
leader guilty of 22 felony counts of lewd conduct, mostly for sucking the
toes of more than a dozen young boys under his supervision.

         Jurors also found Trenton Michael Veches, 32, guilty of three
misdemeanor counts of assaulting a child. Veches' lawyer, John Patrick
Dolan, said he will appeal the verdict, which could carry a sentence of
more than 300 years in prison but with the possibility of parole.

         Newport Beach police arrested Veches in April 2002, after a
co-worker reported seeing him suck a child's toes at a recreation center.
Veches ultimately admitted to similar encounters with 20 children, ranging
from age 6 to 10 at the time of the incidents. Nineteen of the 22 felony
counts in the conviction were for toe sucking and three were for touching
buttocks. Veches admitted photographing some of the encounters.

         Veches has insisted that his behavior was not sexual. During a
two-week trial, Dolan emphasized that his client never touched the
children's sex organs nor was ever seen sexually aroused by them.

         One juror said some on the panel, which deliberated for two days,
saw Veches as a tragic figure suffering from an obsession he didn't
understand, and who didn't deserve so lengthy a sentence.

         "I felt he was compelled," said juror Timothy Black, who is also a
lawyer. "I believe he truly cared about the children and didn't think he
was hurting them. But the law made us come to the conclusion we came to."

         Black called the law vague, allowing a wide spectrum of physical
contact with a minor to be construed as lewd. "Speaking as someone whose
initial instinct was not to convict, the problem was the law; the law is so
broad," he said.

         State law defines a lewd act with a minor as any physical contact
with the purpose of satisfying or pursuing a sexual desire. Jurors
determined that the toe sucking qualified because of the collection of
sexually explicit images of children, downloaded from the Internet, that
police discovered on Veches' home computer. Veches pleaded guilty to a
misdemeanor charge of possessing child pornography.

         The jury should not have made that connection, Dolan said outside
court. "I'm still convinced that my client is innocent," he said. "I think
the jury was prejudiced by those pictures. They made the jury see red. He
shouldn't have had it [pornography], but it was a misdemeanor wrong and the
jury let it support felony charges."

         Sobbing after the verdict was announced, Veches' mother - who gave
only her first name, Joyce - said her son needs help, not prison time.

         Newport Beach Det. Tom Monarch said the verdict was the right one.
"The jurors used common sense and came to the conclusion that one's sexual
desires do not change between home and work."

         Veches is scheduled to be sentenced July 11.

         Black said he and his fellow jurors were not allowed to consider
the lengthy mandatory penalties Veches would have to face, which Black
called too severe in this case. "We're putting a guy away for doing
something that the children may not have known they were being victimized,"
Black said.

         Dolan said he plans to bring a psychological evaluation of Veches
to the court's attention before the July 11 sentencing. "He's suicidal; he
is distraught," Dolan said of his client. "His whole career has been
working with children. Now that's gone and he's just devastated."

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