People v. Montiel

Decision Date16 May 2019
Docket NumberA150250
Citation35 Cal.App.5th 312,247 Cal.Rptr.3d 177
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Carlos Hugo MONTIEL, Defendant and Appellant.

Certified for Partial Publication*

Counsel for Defendant and Appellant: William J. Capriola, under appointment by the Court of Appeal

Counsel for Plaintiff and Respondent: Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Senior Assistant Attorney General, René A. Chacón, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Ashley Harlan, Deputy Attorney General

Humes, P.J.

After he molested his niece, defendant Carlos Hugo Montiel was convicted by a jury of one count of sexual penetration of a child 10 years of age or younger and one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old, and he was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. He contends that his convictions must be reversed because his trial counsel failed to object to expert testimony on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome (CSAAS) that bolstered the victim’s credibility. He also claims that the trial court erred by admitting evidence of an uncharged sex offense he committed against the same victim, awarding the victim’s mother restitution for noneconomic losses, and imposing victim restitution even though the sentence for the conviction on which it was based was stayed. We are not persuaded and affirm.

In the published portion of our opinion we conclude that the trial court was authorized to award restitution to the victim’s mother based on the mother’s own psychological harm. In the unpublished portion of our opinion, we reject Montiel’s remaining arguments and order the correction of an error involving the abstract of judgment.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

At the time of the charged incident, the victim, Jane Doe, was eight years old. She lived with her parents and her two older brothers in a two-bedroom apartment in Napa County. In March 2015, Montiel moved in with Jane’s family. His young daughter would visit and sometimes stay overnight as well. Montiel and his daughter slept in the apartment’s living room.

In early April 2015, Jane’s mother asked Montiel to babysit Jane and drop her off at cheerleading practice the next day, and he agreed to do so. The next morning, before leaving the apartment, Jane’s mother dressed Jane in her cheerleading uniform. After her mother left, Jane sat on the couch and waited until Montiel and his daughter woke up.

At trial, Jane testified that at some point after Montiel and his daughter woke up, Montiel reached under Jane’s cheerleading uniform and underwear, inserted one or two fingers into her vagina, and slid them in once or twice, hurting her. When Jane asked Montiel what he was doing, he said he was playing with her. He then excused himself to go to the bathroom. He later returned, got dressed, and took Jane to cheerleading practice.

Later that day, when Jane and her mother were alone, Jane told her mother what Montiel had done. Jane’s mother soon told Jane’s father and brothers what had happened, but none of them reported the incident to the police, although Jane’s parents planned to tell Montiel to leave the house. That evening, Jane, her family, and Montiel attended a family birthday party. Jane’s parents instructed Jane and her brothers not to say anything about the incident to anyone at the party. Montiel and his daughter left Jane’s family’s apartment the next morning.

A couple of days later, Jane’s second-grade teacher and her cheerleading coach both noticed that "something was off" with Jane and asked her what was wrong. Jane told them what Montiel had done, and the adults notified Child Protective Services. Jane’s teacher also filed a police report.

A few days after that, a Napa police officer interviewed Jane. During the interview, which was recorded, Jane explained how Montiel had inserted his finger into her vagina. She said the incident was painful and scary.

Several months later, a district attorney investigator interviewed Jane. During the interview, Jane talked about the April 2015 incident and disclosed for the first time that Montiel had smelled his finger afterward. She also reported for the first time an earlier incident in which he had similarly sexually assaulted her while she was staying overnight in his home. Over defense objections, the trial court allowed Jane and the investigator to testify at trial about the earlier incident.

Montiel testified in his own defense. On cross-examination, he claimed to be the "victim of a false allegation," and he denied Jane’s accusations. He testified that Jane was "lying" when she said he had put his finger in her vagina, directly touched the skin of her genitals, and pulled down her cheerleading underwear, and he repeated that her testimony at trial was "a lie."

The jury found Montiel guilty of one count of sexual penetration of a child 10 years of age or younger and one count of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old.1 It also found true the allegation that he engaged in substantial sexual conduct with Jane in connection with the latter offense, making him ineligible for probation.2 The trial court imposed a mandatory sentence of 15 years to life for the first count and the midterm of six years for the second count. It then stayed the sentence for the second count.3 The court also ordered Montiel to pay $50,000 in restitution to Jane and $20,000 in restitution to Jane’s mother.

II. DISCUSSION
A.-B.**
C. The Trial Court Was Authorized to Award Restitution to Jane’s Mother Based on the Psychological Harm She Suffered.

Montiel contends that section 1202.4 did not authorize the trial court to order him to pay victim restitution to Jane’s mother (mother) for noneconomic losses. We disagree. In our view, the plain language of section 1202.4 establishes two separate bases—one under subdivision (k)(3) and the other under subdivision (k)(4)—on which parents of children who are sexually abused may qualify as victims in their own right and be awarded restitution for noneconomic losses they sustain.

1. Additional facts.

After the verdict, the prosecution sought victim restitution under section 1202.4, subdivision (f)(3)(F) based on noneconomic damages suffered by Jane and mother. As to mother, the prosecution’s briefing explained that she had "felt first-hand the effects that this crime had on her and her daughter. In response to supporting her daughter and cooperating with the investigation and prosecution of this case, she and her family have been shunned by their extended family, had to seek psychological counseling, and were ultimately evicted from their home." The prosecution requested $50,000 in restitution to Jane and $20,000 in restitution to mother for the psychological harm they had experienced.

At the sentencing hearing, Montiel objected to the request for victim restitution, stating, "I’m objecting to the non-economic damages in the amount of $70,000. I would argue it is inappropriate in this case, and there’s no sufficient factual basis for it. [¶] [The prosecutor] presented statutory authority for ... the Court to order this $70,000 [in] noneconomic losses, but I argue there’s no basis for it." The trial court granted the request and awarded $50,000 to Jane and $20,000 to mother "pursuant to ... section 1202.4[, subdivision ](f)(3)(F), which allows the Court to award restitution for psychological harm." In doing so, the court found that based on the trial testimony and a letter from mother read at the hearing, it was "clear" that the crime "had a very serious and significant impact on the psychological well-being of Jane Doe and her mother," and the amount of restitution sought for their noneconomic losses was "modest."

The trial court also ordered that Montiel pay restitution to Jane and her family or to the Victim Compensation Board, "in a manner to be determined," based on five claims for financial assistance from the Restitution Fund. These five claims consisted of a claim on Jane’s behalf, for which Jane had already been paid $1,863, and pending claims by mother on her own behalf, by mother on behalf of Jane’s siblings, and by Jane’s father.

2. The award of victim restitution to mother was proper.

We generally review an order of victim restitution for an abuse of discretion. ( People v. Mearns (2002) 97 Cal.App.4th 493, 498, 118 Cal.Rptr.2d 511 ( Mearns ).) The resolution of Montiel’s claim, however, hinges on an issue of statutory interpretation, which we review de novo. (See People v. Saint-Amans (2005) 131 Cal.App.4th 1076, 1084, 32 Cal.Rptr.3d 518 ( Saint-Amans ).) " ‘As in any case involving statutory interpretation, our fundamental task here is to determine the Legislature’s intent so as to effectuate the law’s purpose.’ [Citation.] We begin by examining the statutory language because the words of a statute are generally the most reliable indicator of legislative intent. [Citations.] We give the words of the statute their ordinary and usual meaning and view them in their statutory context.... ‘If the statute’s text evinces an unmistakable plain meaning, we need go no further.’ [Citation.] ‘Only when the statute’s language is ambiguous or susceptible of more than one reasonable interpretation, may the court turn to extrinsic aids to assist in interpretation.’ " ( In re C.H. (2011) 53 Cal.4th 94, 100, 133 Cal.Rptr.3d 573, 264 P.3d 357.) " "Where the statute is clear, courts will not ‘interpret away clear language in favor of an ambiguity that does not exist.’ " " ( People v. Loeun (1997) 17 Cal.4th 1, 9, 69 Cal.Rptr.2d 776, 947 P.2d 1313.)

The existence of a constitutional right to restitution also guides our analysis. In adopting section 28 of the California Constitution, the electorate "established a new constitutional right for crime victims to obtain restitution for losses suffered as a result of a criminal...

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    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
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