Jury selection got underway Wednesday for the trial of a martial arts instructor accused of molesting three girls during private lessons at his Lake Elsinore home.
Albert George Williams, 65, could face life in prison if convicted of nine counts of lewd acts on a child under 14 years old, two counts of digital penetration of a child under 10 and one count of witness intimidation.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Angel Bermudez summoned several panels of prospective jurors to the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta for screening as to their qualifications and availability.
Opening statements in the case are expected Thursday.
The defendant was arrested in early November 2012, after a 10-year-old girl told her mother that Williams had allegedly groped her multiple times during a karate lesson in the garage attached to his home in the 15600 block of Laguna Avenue.
According to a trial brief filed by Deputy District Attorney Julie Baldwin, the child told authorities that the defendant had also inserted his fingers into her vagina after getting her into his bedroom on the pretext of helping him with his computer.
Following Williams' arrest, deputies circulated a public notice about the case, asking any other alleged victims to come forward. Two girls did -- both alleging that Williams had molested them during one-on-one karate lessons. All of the children lived in the defendant's neighborhood, Baldwin said.
According to the prosecutor, Williams used intimidation tactics in an attempt to keep the alleged victims from talking, suggesting that they would be beaten by gang members or worse.
One of them told detectives that "she was fearful of defendant because he would tell her and the other children stories about getting the letter 'S' carved into their faces for snitching," according to the brief.
Just prior to his arrest, Williams also allegedly tried to frighten the father of a child, by saying his son was a gang member who had just been released from prison after serving time for killing several people.
"(Williams) said that if anyone ever hurt him or any of his family members, his son would have his back," the brief states.
Most of the alleged sexual assaults occurred in 2011 and 2012, according to court papers. Due to their ages and the nature of the alleged crimes, all of the victims were identified as Jane Does in the criminal complaint.
Williams remains in custody in lieu of $3 million bail at the Southwest Detention Center in Murrieta. He has a prior sex-related conviction in Los Angeles County, prosecutors said.
– City News Service.