Thursday, June 23, 2005
On April 13, Dr. James Edmund Daly was convicted on 22 counts of child molestation. According to a Notice of Circumstances of Aggravation, his molestation included many sexual acts, including intercourse, with a step-daughter between the ages of 5 and 12. The counts detail each sexual act and where it happened—“in shed,” “in living room,” “in bathroom,” “in parent’s bedroom,” “in Jane Doe’s bedroom.”
It’s a sordid map of one child’s hell—a nightmarish house plan of sexual abuse that a full conviction could only partially begin to heal. Yet on the night before his lawyer was to present closing arguments, the Carmel Valley osteopath disappeared, robbing the county of justice and the victim of closure.
“For a 64-year-old man convicted on 22 counts of child molestation, prison is not a good place to be,” Lawrence Biegel says. Biegel is Daly’s lawyer. He’s an affable and well-respected defense attorney with 30 years of experience in Monterey County. He is convinced that his client is innocent, and that he did not get a fair trial.
On this sunny June day, he sits behind a large, disorganized desk looking resigned and well-groomed.
“I’ve never had a client that left,” he says. “It’s pretty unique and ethically complex—a delicate situation.”
For Biegel to say that his client “left” seems to suggest he’ll be right back, as if he popped out for a pack of cigarettes. To be precise, Dr. James Daly fled. He ran. He’s on the lam. There is nothing to indicate that Dr. Daly will ever be coming back—of his own free will, that is.
Daly effectively sealed his fate by running. Yet the
prosecution firmly asserts that the doctor, who last worked at
Salinas Valley State Prison in Soledad, was as good as
convicted long before he chose to bolt. The overwhelming
evidence against him seems to support this opinion.
That evidence was marshaled for trial by Deputy District Attorney Stephanie Hulsey, a striking woman with a small office crammed into the West Wing of the Salinas County Courthouse. According to Hulsey, the victim’s testimony was the most damning evidence against Daly. She says it was a very hard thing for the girl to do, but necessary.
“These children have to get up on the stand and describe these unspeakable humiliations in a very unsafe place,” she says. “They are exposed to very aggressive cross-examination. There is inference which says, ‘You’re a liar, that’s why you’re in court.’ I mean, there’s no other defense to take, is there? Either the victim is telling the truth or not. In this case, her testimony and the corroborating evidence we had was more than enough.”
That corroborating evidence includes a roughly 22-minute telephone conversation between Daly and his step-daughter in which the doctor tries to explain to the victim how he erred by transferring his adult feelings of love and affection from her mother to her.
During the conversation Daly clearly tells her, “You became basically a replacement of mom.” And at other points he says, “You had become my love object” and “It’s not healthy, it’s the wrong thing. I know it was.” Later he tells her, “I used you as the center of my companionship and that was wrong.”
At one point in the conversation, the victim, who knew the conversation was being taped for evidence, tells Daly, “I’m having trouble understanding why you had sex with me.”
There is a pause, and then Daly responds, “It’s a point of deprivation of the…”
“What’s deprivation?” the victim asks.
“Meaning being isolated—a feeling of closeness and everything else…” Daly tries to explain.
The fact that Daly did not offer any firm denial at this point of the conversation is proof, as Hulsey sees it, that he is guilty. Biegel insists that his client didn’t actually hear the statement because he was too intent on giving her the complex explanation for their inappropriate relationship. More importantly, Biegel feels the jury shouldn’t have heard the tape in the first place—that the conversation was presented out of context and relies too much on inference.
“At no point in the entire tape does Daly confess to molesting the victim,” he claims. “It’s circumstantial.”
In fact, according to Biegel, this tape is just one of a long list of what he calls “evidence problems” that ultimately doomed his client. Most frustrating to Biegel is a large body of evidence he unsuccessfully sought to introduce. This includes evidence, Biegel argued to the court, that shows the victim’s mother had falsely accused her ex-husband’s new wife of sexually penetrating the victim when she was four.
“[The victim’s] natural mother is very sensitized to the issue of molestation for personal reasons,” Biegel claims. “She was hypersensitive. We have tape recordings of her cajoling this four-year-old where she was trying to get her to accuse the stepmother of these acts of sexual penetration. I thought all of this should be admissible, including the psychiatric report on the girl because it bears heavily on the victim’s credibility.”
Biegel argued to the court that if the victim had been coached to accuse her stepmother of sexual abuse, it stood to reason that she could be coached to accuse her stepfather. Yet despite the fact that the victim’s stepmother flew out from Oklahoma to testify for the defense, Judge Russell Scott decided to bar her testimony, stating that the victim’s history had no bearing on the present case. As a result, Biegel grew so frustrated during the proceedings that he motioned for a mistrial on more than one occasion—the first time, he claims, he’s ever done so in his 30-year career.
Hulsey counters that both the prosecution and the defense had evidence excluded. “The judge was thoughtful, thorough, and fair,” she says. “He did his own research on the case.”
Scott’s decision was tremendously deflating to the defense. According to Biegel, Daly’s four-person defense team left the court that first day feeling like they’d been “repeatedly hit by two-by-fours.” According to Biegel, Daly became very discouraged, convinced that Judge Scott had become his jury and executioner.
“[Daly] said to me, ‘Well, Larry, it’s OK, we can appeal, right?’ ‘Yeah, that’s true,’ I told him. ‘But you’re going to be sitting in prison while the appeals go through.’ I had to tell him that,” Biegel says.
According to Biegel, the defense never really recovered from the judge’s ruling and Daly sank into a fierce depression as it became clear that the prosecution had the upper hand.
“I’ve known Judge Scott for 27 years. I have a lot of respect for Judge Scott. We just happen to have a profound difference about rulings in this case,” Biegel says.
In fact, Biegel was Judge Scott’s evidence teacher at the Monterey College of Law in the late ’70s. “He was a terrific student,” Biegel says with a humorless laugh. “We just had some intense disagreements on evidentiary law in this case.”
Hulsey, however, says the case did not hinge on the exclusion of evidence. In addition to the victim’s testimony and the bombshell tape recording, the prosecution also provided testimony asserting that Daly had confided in his first wife that his own mother had molested him when he was about five, and this had caused him to have sexual thoughts about their biological daughter. Furthermore, the biological daughter refused to testify on behalf of her father, according to Hulsey.
There was also evidence that when the victim began to exhibit “some alarming, concerning behaviors in the fourth and fifth grade” including signs of depression, Daly prescribed Prozac to her. Hulsey called on a pediatrician to testify that he would not prescribe psychotropic medications of any kind to a child that age, and definitely not a family member.
Yet, even as the case drew to a close after three full weeks of testimony and the prosecution’s case appeared watertight, Biegel insists that his client’s sudden disappearance came as a surprise to everyone.
On the evening of Sunday, April 10, Renee Daly, James Daly’s current wife, was waiting for her husband to arrive at a dinner party. Despite the fact that his high profile child molestation case was to hear closing arguments the next day, Dr. Daly was apparently determined to remain social and find strength in the support of his friends. Yet when her husband still failed to show up, Renee rushed home to look for him, fearing the worst.
But instead of a body she found a letter. In it, Daly bid his wife goodbye, claiming that he wasn’t getting a fair trial. There is no mention of suicide in the one-page, ambiguous correspondence. He was simply running away. Panicked, Renee picked up the phone and called Larry Biegel at around 7pm.
“It’s something I’ll never forget,” Biegel says. “Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night. I didn’t know what to do. We’re talking about hundreds of hours of preparing for this and poof, he’s gone. It’s over.”
The next morning, instead of presenting his closing arguments, Biegel was given the unenviable task of informing Judge Scott, Hulsey and DA Investigator Melanie Rogers that his client had fled. Judge Scott responded by immediately revoking Daly’s $500,000 bail and issuing a $5 million bench warrant for his arrest.
In addition, Judge Scott informed Biegel and Hulsey that he intended to instruct the jury to consider Daly’s flight as “consciousness of guilt.”
Biegel protested, claiming there was a difference between a defendant running because he felt he wasn’t getting a fair trial and, say, an embezzler fleeing the country with pocketfuls of cash. The judge conceded.
“That motion was my lone victory,” Biegel sighs. “It seemed like I lost every other motion of that trial. Nonetheless, KSBW covered Daly’s flight and, as they say, you can’t un-ring a bell. I mean, I had to go in there and argue without my client. The jury obviously suspected he had run if they didn’t outright know.”
Biegel shrugs, “Whether or not he would have been convicted, we won’t know. He chose not to stay around.”
If he does come back, Biegel insists he will vigorously argue for a new trial.
“But it will be in front of the same judge that denied him the first time,” he admits. “And the chances of changing his mind are somewhere between slim and ain’t going to happen.”
In her closing arguments, Hulsey had told the jury that, “There’s only one thing as bad as being a child molester and that’s being accused of being a child molester.” In other words, she told them, she wouldn’t be trying to put this man behind bars for the rest of his life if she wasn’t 100 percent convinced he deserved it.
On April 13, two days after Daly fled, a jury made up of eight men and four women convicted James Edmund Daly in abstentia on all 22 counts of child molestation. Presented with the victim’s testimony, the damning tape recording and the simple fact that the defendant was no longer in the courtroom, the jury took just over two hours to reach the verdict.
When and if he is captured, Daly faces 58 years behind bars.
“Obviously, he never spoke to me about leaving,” Biegel calmly says from behind his wide, cluttered desk. “But I can empathize with why he did it. That’s effectively a life sentence.”
Hulsey wasn’t surprised he ran either. She had “some concerns” from the beginning, and had even filed motions to escalate the bail.
In the days following Daly’s flight, she voiced her confidence to the media that he would be captured—going so far as to infer that they may even know where he was. Yet today, more than two months after Daly’s disappearance, she’s less than sure.
To elude capture in modern America takes some doing, and Hulsey suspects that James Daly had a very detailed escape plan in place long before the trial even began. Concerned that Renee Daly might try to siphon money to her husband, the district attorney’s office has cinched off all potential sources of funding, including the assets from the recent sale of Daly’s Carmel Valley home at 27487 Schulte Road.
According to investigators, Daly has contacted his wife since leaving the area and she has turned that information over to detectives. Because the investigation is still active, Hulsey isn’t at liberty to divulge much else.
<>As for Biegel, Daly still weighs on his mind. “A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about where he may be,” he says. “You get to be friends with your clients. He was a very decent client. Granted, I never lived with him or had him as a stepfather, but I found him to be a genuinely intelligent, decent person.” According to Hulsey, the victim came forward to protect her two younger siblings. >