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Sexual battery case dismissed after jury summoning system malfunctions

A vendor used by a California court failed to get enough jurors because of equipment malfunctions. The dismissal ended the victim's restraining order against her alleged attacker.

A sexual battery case in California was dismissed and the victim's protective order terminated when a third-party vendor used by Riverside County Superior Court failed to summons any jurors.

The case was among more than 1,000 that have been dismissed in the county in recent months, the Riverside County District Attorney's office said.

The victim in the battery case said in a statement that she was "disappointed that justice was not served" and that her alleged assailant "is now a free man in the community who received zero consequences.” She did not want her name used.

The misdemeanor case stemmed from a complaint filed last year alleging the defendant groped her without her consent in October 2021.

The trial was set to begin on Dec. 7, but the prosecutor's office was informed no jurors were available. It was postponed for one day but by then no courtrooms were available, and the judge dismissed the case.

The action brought an end to a restraining order against the defendant that had been in place since December 2021, according to the district attorney's office.

“The public is owed an explanation for the apparent lack of oversight of a third-party vendor contracted by the courts to summon jurors for this trial and for trials across the county for the entire month of December 2022,” Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in a statement. “This crisis is unacceptable and only adds to the daily toll of cases being dismissed by the courts.”

The vendor, Taylor Communications, experienced mechanical issues with its equipment that caused delays in printing and mailing of summonses this month, said Marita Ford, a spokeswoman for Riverside County Superior Court.

Jury summonses were sent out, but the notification time was drastically reduced, giving potential jurors far less warning than usual, Ford said, adding that the court had called in a larger number of jurors this month in anticipation of a high volume of jury trials.

"The mechanical failure, and thus delay in mailing, resulted in a reduced number of jurors reporting in December," Ford said in a statement.

Taylor Communications could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Across Riverside County, located east of Los Angeles, more than 1,000 cases have been dismissed since early October, Hestrin's office said. Many of those cases stemmed from domestic violence charges.

Some of the dismissals were part of a court backlog of 2,800 cases that piled up during the pandemic when courts were closed and work was hampered by staffing shortages, the district attorney's office said.

Superior Court Presiding Judge John Monterosso said in a statement in October that he shared "others' frustration when a case is not resolved on the merits, or due process is impaired, due to a lack of available judicial resources.”

Advocates for survivors of sexual abuse say the criminal justice system does not do enough to protect victims and make them feel safe.

A 2021 study conducted by the National Domestic Violence Hotline found that nearly 40% of survivors felt less safe after contacting police compared with 20% who said they felt safer. The study also found that 77% of people who did call police were afraid to call again.