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DHS man denies wrongdoing in child porn case

Aldrin Brown – City News Service

A licensed foster care provider who worked for the Palm Springs Unified School District vehemently denies any wrongdoing with underage boys and will ask a judge to lower his $1 million bail when he returns to court next week, his lawyer said Thursday.

John David Yoder, 43, of Desert Hot Springs is accused with two alleged accomplices of producing child pornography with boys they lured away from Riverside County parks, sometimes by offering to help them become child models.

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News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 were in the courtroom Thursday morning.

Erick Alan Monsivais, 29, of Los Angeles, who is also charged in the case, also appeared at a hearing at the Larson Justice Center in Indio and is scheduled to return to court March 12.

Yoder is due back in court Tuesday for an estimated four-hour preliminary hearing that should offer a glimpse into the evidence as prosecutors try to convince a judge to order the defendant to stand trial.

“The charges are serious; the evidence so far is almost non-existent,” Yoder’s lawyer, John P. Dolan, told City News Service.

Dolan said he received a large package of evidence Thursday from the prosecution. Prior to that, the defense had only seen an eight-page report with what he described as “third-hand hearsay.”

The high bail is based on the severity of the most serious charge — aggravated sexual assault of a child by force. Prosecutors will have to show next week that there is at least probable cause to believe Yoder is guilty of such a serious allegation.

“Mr. Yoder adamantly denies any wrongdoing with young men,” Dolan said. “He has a stable family history, a stable work history. He has no criminal record.”

Yoder, who’s being held at the Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside, appeared in a red jail jumpsuit, indicating he was being segregated from other prisoners.

Monsivais was represented today by Deputy Public Defender Daniel Yu, who declined to comment on anything to do with the case. Monsivais, who’s being held at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta in lieu of $1 million bail, appeared in a burgundy jail jumpsuit that
looked baggy on his 5-foot-6, 115-pound frame.

He spoke to the court only once, when he was asked whether he agreed to waive his right to a speedy proceeding so his next hearing could be delayed to next month. Monsivais responded with a barely audible “yes.”

The third alleged accomplice, William Clyde Thompson, 54, of Las Vegas, remains in federal custody in Nevada.

“I’ve seen cases similar to this, but this one is rather egregious,” Robert Goetsh, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations unit, said in a news briefing this week. “This one rises to the top.”

Court papers indicate the alleged child porn ring targeted multiple children and was in existence for at least three years.

District Attorney Mike Hestrin, joined by Goetsh and several other local and federal officials, provided limited information about the case during a news briefing at the D.A.’s headquarters in downtown Riverside Tuesday.

Thompson was characterized as the ringleader, making trips to the Coachella Valley from his Las Vegas home and hooking up with Monsivais and Yoder to find targets, authorities alleged. Most of the defendants’ time was spent in Desert Hot Springs, cruising “parks and public places,” Hestrin alleged.

Yoder resided in Desert Hot Springs with his two adopted sons. Until recently, he was a licensed foster care provider and a special education aid for Desert Hot Springs High School, according to the D.A.’s office.

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PSUSD Assistant Superintendent Mauricio Arellano said Yoder has been suspended without pay and will remain in that status until his criminal case is resolved.

According to county Department of Public Social Services Director Susan von Zabern, the agency is “cooperating fully” with the investigation into Yoder and his co-defendants. She would not comment on the length of time Yoder spent as a foster parent or on the process of vetting him.

Yoder faces 35 years to life behind bars if convicted of human trafficking of a minor, conspiracy, lewd acts on a child under 14 and aiding a felon to avoid arrest.

Monsivais is charged with four counts of oral copulation of a child under 10, three counts of aggravated assault on a minor with force, and one count each of human trafficking and lewd acts on a child with force. He’s facing 167 years to life in prison if convicted.

Thompson, who is in federal custody in Las Vegas, is charged with sodomy of a child, oral copulation of a minor, sexual assault of a child under 14, lewd acts on a child under 14, procurement of a child under 16 for lewd acts, human trafficking of a minor, use of a child for prohibited acts, distribution of child porn and conspiracy to create child porn. He’s facing 85 years to life in prison if convicted. An arraignment date has not yet been set.

Along with the state charges, the defendants are all under federal indictment based on a grand jury inquiry completed last month that culminated in charges of sexual exploitation of a child, conspiracy to produce child porn and conspiracy to distribute child porn.

That case was the result of a 2013 investigation of Thompson, who allegedly used the aliases “Jason Brock” and “Tony Bailor” when introducing himself to children. He’s accused of posing as a professional photographer seeking boys to model for him, according to court documents.

Thompson was under house arrest in September 2013 when he allegedly tore off his GPS tracking bracelet and went on the lam. He was apprehended in Needles on Jan. 27.

According to Riverside County sheriff’s Investigator Andy Liu, Thompson attempted to contact Monsivais and Yoder after being taken into custody, leading authorities to interview and ultimately arrest those two defendants.

Hestrin would not say by what means the trio allegedly produced child porn, but the grand jury indictment lists still and video cameras, as well as DVDs, computer hard drives, flash drives and micro video cassettes, as evidence.

Investigators declined to divulge whether the defendants were allegedly distributing images via a virtual private network online, sending copies via email or how the material was packaged.

Yoder and Monsivais remained in custody in lieu of $1 million bail each. Authorities said in court records that Yoder earned money from the sale of child pornography, and asked for scrutiny of any money he might use to make bail.

Authorities suspect there could be other victims and asked anyone with information to call investigators at (866) 723-3595.

KESQ News Team

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