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Broward County church volunteer accused of molesting child


To say that our society looks down on sex offenders is a massive understatement. Yet feelings of disgust over what a person is accused of should never be allowed to obscure the reality that sometimes, innocent people are wrongly accused. And as news reports of death row exonerations in Florida continue to make clear, sometimes innocent people are convicted and spend years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

A 29-year-old church volunteer is facing felony charges that he sexually molested a 9-year-old girl. According to the Broward County Sheriff's Office, the man invited the girl and her family to his home in Deerfield Beach. He is accused of inappropriately touching the girl in his bedroom. The girl allegedly told her parents, who called police. The young man was arrested and charged with molestation.

These are serious charges that carry serious penalties, including prison time if the accused is convicted. But the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and has the right to confront and cross-examine his accusers in court. This is a case where the prosecution's case rests entirely on the testimony of a nine-year-old girl. Defense counsel must conduct an independent investigation, and carefully examine not only what the girl said but the context in which she made the allegations.

When a child is being interviewed by police it is easy for the questioner to suggest the answers that the questioner wants to hear, and young children will often give that answer because they want to please the questioner. This may be a case of innocent conduct that was misinterpreted. If defense counsel can raise reasonable doubt as to this young man's guilt, he should be acquitted.

Source: WPTV.com, "Maher Ortega Estevez: Broward County church leader charged with child molestation," Dave Gould, Oct. 30, 2013

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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