BANNING: Testimony continues in prosecution of child molestation and porn ring

Prosecution testimony is set to resume today in the trial of a former Palms Springs schools instructor who is accused of being part of a child molestation and pornography ring that preyed on boys in the Coachella Valley.

 

John David Yoder, 43, faces 12 felony charges, including lewd acts with a child, persuading a child to commit lewd acts, human trafficking of a child, harboring a fugitive and conspiracy to commit a felony.

 

In his opening statement on Wednesday, prosecutor William Robinson alleged Yoder molested a child he met while a special education aide and served as a key facilitator of a child pornography ring by allowing three prolific pedophiles to use his Desert Hot Springs home as a base from which to meet and seduce local boys.

 

But during a nearly 90-minute presentation, defense attorney John Patrick Dolan questioned the credibility of a behaviorally challenged former foster child who is the only witness to molestation claims. He told jurors the evidence shows Yoder was unaware of illegal activities by the other men.

 

“Mr. Yoder … was a puppet, a pawn, a patsy,” the lawyer said. “John David Yoder is not guilty and that’s what the evidence will show in this case.”

 

Yoder is named — along with Erick Alan Monsivais of Los Angeles, William Clyde Thompson of Las Vegas and Noland Anthony Harper of Richmond, Virginia — in a 59-count indictment alleging a sprawling molestation and child pornography ring.

 

Monsivais, 30, had been scheduled to go on trial with Yoder, but was removed as a defendant last month after pleading guilty to five felonies in exchange for a 45-year prison sentence. He agreed to testify against Yoder, Robinson said.

 

Authorities allege Yoder persuaded a troubled mother to grant him legal guardianship over her severely developmentally disabled son, whom the defendant met while working as a paraprofessional health aide at the Center for Learning and Development in the Palm Springs Unified School District.

 

The boy moved in with Yoder and became a romantic partner, sleeping in the defendant’s room nightly behind a locked door, Robinson alleged.

 

Yoder was allegedly witnessed fondling the youth’s genitals, eating a potato chip off the child’s crotch and encouraging the boy to masturbate on video, the prosecutor said.

 

But Dolan told jurors that the alleged victim has repeatedly denied any sexual contact by Yoder and that the 18-year-old former foster child who claims to have witnessed the alleged crimes is biased against the defendant and has admitted his intention “to take him down.”

 

The defense attorney said Yoder is a gay man and conceded he “fancies young boys” and served as an administrator for a website called boylover.org. But he said the site did not contain pornography, was not illegal, and that his client told police that he never in his life engaged in sex with anyone under the age of 19.

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