Judge gives media limited access to Modesto juvenile rape trial

The media will have limited access to the trial of two teenagers accused of sexually assaulting another teen at the Stanislaus County Juvenile Hall, a judge ruled Friday.

Judge Nan Cohan Jacobs was asked by the district attorney’s office to exclude the media to guard the privacy of the 17-year-old victim. The Bee — which is not identifying the victim or suspects because of the nature of the charges and their age — argued the trial should remain open with minor restrictions.

“He’s a vulnerable young man,” Jacobs said of the victim in announcing her decision.

She ruled The Bee cannot be present when the victim testifies or when there is medical testimony about his injuries, and cannot report any statements made by the victim that a witness may testify to. In addition, the judge said The Bee can’t publish “anything related to the nature of the acts alleged” mentioned during the attorneys’ opening statements.

Attorney Karl Olson, representing The Bee, argued that Jacobs’ ruling amounted to prior restraint, but the judge said she was “trying to fashion a remedy that recognizes the First Amendment rights of The Bee while protecting the rights of the alleged victim.”

The two defendants — ages 14 and 15 — each are charged with two counts of sodomy. They have denied the allegations through their attorneys. The boys were in Juvenile Court on Friday; they are scheduled to return June 15 for a pretrial hearing.

The teens charged in the alleged attack live in Modesto. They were identified in court by their first names and the first letter of their last names. The victim lives in Stanislaus County.

The 17-year-old said he was sexually assaulted sometime between 10:30 p.m. and midnight April 23 in a cell the three boys shared. The victim’s family said they had asked for him to be moved because he feared for his safety.

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