Criminal charges will not be filed against City Councilman Arthur K. Snyder for the alleged molestation of his 9-year-old daughter several years ago, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office said Thursday.
"There is not sufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt," the district attorney's office said in a prepared statement. "For these reasons, prosecution is declined."
Deputy Dist. Atty. Lisa Hart said she recommended against criminal charges after reviewing the case because she felt that "a reasonable likelihood of conviction does not exist." Two months ago, a Dependency Court judge found Snyder, 52, and his ex-wife, Michele Noval, 31, both unfit to care for their child and ordered that she remain in foster care.
Hart described Snyder's daughter as "a reluctant witness who refuses to testify in front of her father." Hart also said the case against Snyder was further weakened by contradictions between details of medical testimony and the child's statements and by the fact that the girl told of the alleged sexual abuse during an emotional time after her mother was twice arrested (for shoplifting and assault with a deadly weapon).
Hart added that Noval is "unstable and could not be called as a witness."
Snyder, who announced in January that he would resign his post for personal reasons, said he still intends to give up his 14th District council seat by September. In a telephone interview, Snyder said: "I suppose I feel vindicated. I always knew it wasn't true. I'm just relieved it's over. . . .
"The less said about it (the decision), the less celebration about it, the less difficult it will be for my daughter." He added that he will try to see her soon.
Noval said she was disappointed. "He should be made to stand trial . . . and not be given preferential treatment."
Police had taken the girl from Snyder's office in November and temporarily placed her in MacLaren Children's Center, the county's shelter for abused and neglected children. On Christmas Eve, Dependency Court Judge Edward Kakita concluded that the evidence presented to him during an eight-day closed hearing substantiated allegations of abuse by both parents, including several molestations by Snyder.
Two physicians who specialize in child sexual abuse testified they had found physical evidence of years-old molestation, and the girl testified that her father had been the perpetrator.
After studying an evaluation prepared by the county Department of Children's Services, which included the results of psychiatric examinations of the three and a study of the home setting, Kakita ruled that living in either household would be "detrimental" to the girl's well-being and ordered her placed in a foster home.
The child reportedly is thriving in the private home where she now lives, and that placement is not expected to be affected by Thursday's decision. "She's suntanned, playing softball, and doing real well," according to a source close to the case.
"The district attorney's decision to file or not file has no bearing on decisions made by the Department of Children's Services or the Dependency Court," said Senior Deputy County Counsel Larry Cory, who supervises the children's services section that originally took action against Snyder in Dependency Court.
"The D.A. doesn't file on over 90% of the cases we try," Cory said.
Thursday's announcement comes six months after the allegations first surfaced, when Snyder's daughter confided in a therapist who was treating her for anxiety over her parents' battle for her custody. The allegations, which included the child's statements that Snyder had molested her several times four or five years earlier, were contained in a civil petition filed by the county Department of Public Social Services in November.
The decision not to file criminal charges was made by Hart and her superiors, including Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, according to Hart's boss, Deputy Dist. Atty. Roger Gunson, who heads the sex crimes and domestic violence division.
In answer to a reporter's question, Hart said, "I don't think Mr. Snyder has been vindicated."
Hart declined to speculate on whether the district attorney would reevaluate the case should the girl change her mind about testifying if she is able to do so by closed-circuit television, a procedure approved this week by the state Legislature. The six-year statute of limitations for filing charges expires in November, Hart said.