Both sides allege deep conspiracy

Mariposa Gazette || 22-Apr-2010

Testimony continues in MacDonald case

MARIPOSA - A Mariposa County jury continues to hear testimony in the child molest case against William Terry MacDonald, 64, of Hornitos. After a full week of the trial, it appears the prosecution and defense believe there was a conspiracy behind the story.

MacDonald had been awaiting trial in the Mariposa County Jail since he was arrested last summer. He was originally charged with 17 felonies, with special circumstances for multiple victims and substantial sexual contact. The crimes were reported to have happened from December, 1991 to December, 2008. There are two victims named in the complaint.

Another victim testified that she, too, had been molested for years by the defendant. He is not charged with those crimes because the statute of limitations has run out.

Early this week, the defendant’s son, Lance MacDonald, Sr., spent almost two days on the witness stand, after being called by defense attorney Jeffrey Tenenbaum. His daughter is among the named victims.

Lance MacDonald said his daughter told him and his ex-wife that “grandpa touched my chest.” He said the family believed they could handle the situation amongst itself, and he did not report the incident to law enforcement. He said he “took precautions” following the girl’s report to make sure when she was at MacDonald’s ranch that “she was with somebody at all times to protect both parties, just in case.”

Almost immediately following those statements, Lance MacDonald told Deputy District Attorney Kim Fletcher that he didn’t believe his father had molested his daughter or any of the other victims. “There’s a lot of dynamics to this,” he said, explaining that his ex-wife hated his parents and may have talked his daughter into making such an allegation. “I believe she was coerced,” he said of the little girl. “I believe she was misunderstood.”

During his cross examination, Lance MacDonald offered far more information than was asked of him, at times prompting Judge Carlos Baker to warn him against arguing with Fletcher.

When asked about the other alleged victims, Lance Mac- Donald said he didn’t believe any of it was true. “It just looked like a conspiracy,” he said of the allegations which surfaced after another victim confided in an aunt. “I think they put this all together by themselves with (MacDonald’s ex-wife) helping them.”

The line of questioning turned toward the family’s Hornitos ranch and who was entitled to it. During the time that MacDonald and his exwife were separated, Lance MacDonald’s mother came back into the picture and onto the ranch. She, too, dumped money into the ranch.

Even though Lance said his sister and former step-mother had rights to the ranch, a couple of voice mails left to his sisters show that he used that to dissuade them from reporting the allegations of molest. He denied that, but his assertion was quickly rebuffed when Fletcher played the voice mails for the jury.

In each, he warns the recipient of the “ramifications” of going forward with reporting the incidents to law enforcement. “We’ll run you down the list,” he said to one of the alleged victims. “Mariposa County’s broke, so they’re gonna just keep diggin’ and diggin’ and diggin’,” he said. “They’ll find out that dad and your mom were never married. She’ll be prosecuted for insurance fraud from the state. She’s gonna lose her job. She’ll have big fines, and she’s gonna go to jail.”

He further tells the woman that he and his son will be without a place to live on the ranch, and that she will likely face jail for fraud, too. “So I don’t know what’s going on, but let’s think twice about all this, figure it out.”

Fletcher asked Lance Mac- Donald if the ranch was the most important thing in his life. He responded that his children were, but added, “I don’t want to lose the ranch. I love the ranch.”

Fletcher pressed him further, saying he conspired with his mother and father to keep the ranch from his step-mother and sister. “She’s conspiring with her mother,” Lance MacDonald said of his sister.

When he heard the audio recording, he said he didn’t know why he said those things. “I was pretty upset about what was going on. I didn’t understand what she was up to.” He said his father had “never done anything to hurt that child in any way, shape or form” and that his sister had stolen some $20,000 from the ranch accounts while she was in college.

“If dad goes to jail, I figure that’d be all she wrote,” Lance MacDonald continued. “I was just trying to get her to talk about it. I wasn’t suggesting anything,” he said in response to Fletcher’s indication that he was purposely dissuading her. He said he was just “rambling on,” but right before lunch, MacDonald said the suggestion to call the women came from his father.

“I still don’t believe it happened,” he said of the four victims’ allegations.

Before the younger Mac- Donald took the stand, Bill MacDonald’s ex-wife testified. She said that after her daughter, then 15, reported the sexual abuse and then recanted at Bill’s request, the issue never left her mind. “It was always eating at me for years,” she said of her eldest daughter’s claims. She said she was in denial at the time. “I was totally confused. I didn’t know what way was up.”

Fletcher asked her why she spoke up now. “The truth needs to be told,” the woman said. “It was embarrassing, humiliating. It was extremely overwhelming.”

She said MacDonald “didn’t want his good image tarnished” back in 1992 when the initial report was made. “It was over the top,” she said.

Even though the victim recanted, the woman said the thought that the allegation may have been true stayed with her. “It was always there,” she said.

Still, she offered no reasoning for not reporting the incidents to law enforcement, even after three more victims in the family came forward. “I know that’s the big question,” she said of why the alleged crimes were not reported. “There’s no excuse.”

On Wednesday, the court was closed due to a state furlough day. Testimony resumed on Thursday.

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