Defendant reaches plea deal in child porn ring case

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BANNING – Jury selection is scheduled to continue tod trial of a former Palm Springs schools instructor accused in a child molestation and pornography ring, but a co-defendant expected to face trial with him will not be part of the proceedings.
   Questioning of potential jurors to determine if they can serve on a lengthy trial began Tuesday in the trial of John David Yoder, 43, of Desert Hot
Springs, and Erick Alan Monsivais, 30, of Los Angeles. But as the proceedings unfolded, Monsivais was removed as a defendant and a court date in his case was reset for March.
   A gag order prevents attorneys for the parties from discussing details of the case, but a source with knowledge of the case said Monsivais reached a plea deal with prosecutors that calls for him to testify against his co-defendants.
   Until his arrest, Yoder was a licensed foster care provider and a special education assistant instructor for the Palm Springs Unified School District.
   Yoder and Monsivais are named — along with William Clyde Thompson of Las Vegas and Noland Anthony Harper of Richmond, Virginia — in a 59-count indictment alleging lewd acts on a child, human trafficking, sexual assault, conspiracy and other charges. Thompson and Harper are in federal custody.
   In a recent motion seeking a postponement, Yoder’s lawyer, John Patrick Dolan, cited prosecutors’ recent disclosure that they were seeking to cut a plea deal that could result in Harper testifying against Yoder and Monsivais.
   According to the filing, prosecutors also told defense attorneys they were considering calling a confidential jailhouse informant, who allegedly communicated with Yoder in a local lockup and has information about “solicitation of murder accusations.”
   No charges have been filed against either defendant for solicitation of murder, and no other information about the allegations were disclosed. At the request of prosecutors, a judge last week ordered Dolan’s filing be sealed from public view.
   The request for a postponement was ultimately withdrawn.
   Yoder has been in custody in lieu of $750,000 bail and Monsivais in lieu of $1 million bail. Harper and Thompson are in federal custody and it is
unclear when the pair will make their initial court appearances in Riverside County.
   Prosecutors said there are at least 10 alleged known underage victims, though investigators suspect there may be more. The District Attorney’s Office filed felony sex-related charges against the men in February.
   An arrest declaration filed by the District Attorney’s Office alleges Yoder was seen molesting a 12-year-old special-needs boy over whom he had been made guardian. Court papers allege the boy shared a bed with the defendant and was compelled to engage in sexually exploitative activity.
   In one instance, Yoder was allegedly seen fondling the youth’s genitals as the two sat together in a recliner.
   Prosecutors allege the defendants are prolific child pornographers and abusers. Court papers allege they operated a child porn ring that was in existence for at least three years.
   Thompson was characterized as the alleged ringleader, making trips to the Coachella Valley from his Las Vegas home and allegedly connecting with Monsivais and Yoder to find prospects.
   In a video played during Yoder’s preliminary hearing, an 11-year-old boy alleged he had posed shirtless and barefoot during modeling sessions arranged by the defendants in exchange for cash, cellphones and high-end scooters.
   The defendants would gather at Yoder’s home and spend time at a local
skate park, where they solicited children to pose for photographs and videos, according to investigators.



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