[b]Commentary: All the little voices deserve equal attention [/b] [i]by Steve Corbett / Times Columnist[/i] Saturday, January 17, 2004 While the world watches Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon prepare to make his case against superstar Michael Jackson on charges of child molestation, the Santa Maria parents of another alleged molestation victim wonder why Sneddon abandoned them in their search for truth. David Bruce Danielson retired last year from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, where he worked as a detective until his July 20, 2002, arrest on suspicion of child molestation. In August 2002, Sneddon decided not to prosecute Danielson, of Orcutt, who was then 49, married and a veteran forensic investigator who had worked on some of the county’s most serious criminal cases. During a subsequent internal investigation into the molestation allegations, Danielson remained on paid administrative leave until he retired, according to sheriff’s Lt. Julie McCammon. Citing confidentiality, Sheriff’s Department officials declined to release specifics about how long Danielson collected his paycheck while on administrative leave or how much money he received when he retired June 17, 2003. Danielson received full pay during the time he did not work and applied that time to his pension, McCammon said. Danielson did not return to partial duty because of the seriousness of the child molestation allegations, she said. The completed internal investigation did not exonerate Danielson, Sheriff Jim Anderson said Monday. “He retired in lieu of termination,” Anderson said. Danielson could not be reached for comment. Sneddon did not respond to a request to discuss the difference between freeing Danielson and prosecuting Jackson. But the district attorney has previously said that Danielson’s lack of provable criminal intent figured prominently into the decision to release the detective. Although Sneddon has offered few details about the charges against Jackson, the veteran prosecutor obviously believes Jackson acted willfully. [b]But Danielson [u]admitted [/u]only to accidentally fondling the then 14-year-old child in a one-time occurrence, according to Sneddon, who said in an August 2002 interview that the deputy admitted touching the girl “in areas people would consider inappropriate.” [/b] Sneddon said Danielson came home after a night of drinking and crawled into his wife’s bed where the child, who was a guest in the home, was sleeping. “He touched (the child) a few places (and) by what he was touching realized it wasn’t his wife,” Sneddon said. “He said, ‘Oh my gosh,’ and jumped out of bed.” Sneddon said the subsequent investigation into the girl’s claims did not provide the required evidence necessary to file a formal charge and prepare for court. The child’s parents, whose names are not being used to protect the identity of the alleged victim, believe that a provable case existed against Danielson. The girl’s mother and father also wonder why the Sheriff’s Department – and not an outside police agency – conducted the investigation. One of the detectives even identified himself as a friend of Danielson, the child’s mother said shortly after Sneddon declined to prosecute. [b]The child’s father said last week that the Jackson case seems to depend on the word of a child who, like his daughter, cooperated with Santa Barbara County law enforcement officials. But Sneddon didn’t take his daughter’s statements seriously enough to go to court. Jackson’s alleged victim, however, is expected to testify as Sneddon’s star witness. [/b] Shortly after Sneddon decided not to prosecute Danielson, the child wrote about her feelings, her father said. “When I came clean I expected to be set free from the burden I had been carrying for so long, however, the only person set free was David Danielson,” the child wrote. [b]”I am astounded at the stupidity the DA showed by allowing this man to be released of all charges. [/b]David Danielson may be free, but I am still emotionally trapped. There is not one day that I don’t wish I wouldn’t have come clean…” “This happened to me when I was 14,” she wrote. “I am now 16. I am a junior in high school, and I feel alone in this. I am asking the community to please help me to bring this man to justice. I don’t want this to happen to other young girls. Santa Barbara County, please HELP…” [b]The child signed her letter “The “IGNORED’ Teen. [/b] The girl’s father describes the now 17-year-old high school senior as bright, busy and sensitive. Yet, he worries that she will feel even more alone now that Sneddon has taken the word of another alleged child molestation victim more seriously than hers. “Maybe it’s because it is high profile, higher profile, but still, in her mind it’s the same situation,” he said. “She’s still angry.” Although the child is “over what actually happened,” the child’s father said “her anger stems toward Sneddon.” Although the girl’s family dealt with an assistant district attorney in Santa Maria, “it all boils down to Sneddon’s hands” in Santa Barbara, he said. [b]Despite Danielson’s [u]shocking admission to several people[/u], Sneddon judged the evidence to be weak. [/b] Maybe so. But, in this uncelebrated case, even the best legal judgment does little to convince a still-vulnerable child that trust and truth matter. Steve Corbett’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. He can be reached at 739-2215 or e-mailed at scorbett@pulitzer.net. Read Corbett online at www.santamariatimes.com. :nav Source: [url=http://www.santamariatimes.com/articles/2004/01/17/sections/traffic/962.txt]http://www.santamariatimes.com/articles/20…traffic/962.txt[/url]

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