The fate of Hans Jorgen Kardel rests in the jury's hands after closing statements were presented Wednesday, with the prosecution arguing that the former Rotarian and businessman molested his granddaughters and the defense maintaining that her client never touched either of the girls.
For the last two weeks Kardel, 84, has been on trial for more than eight felony counts of lewd acts, including unlawful penetration with more than one child, over the course of a decade. He is also charged with witness dissuasion.
During her closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Fabiana Fede reminded jurors that Kardel's granddaughters, Jane Does 1 and 2, loved and trusted him but said Kardel "capitalized on that love and trust for his own selfish disgusting desires." The girls are now 15 and 18 but were younger than 16 at the time of the alleged events.
"His daughter also loved and trusted him, and he capitalized on that as well -- with her precious girls," said Fede, adding, "He portrayed himself as a Bible man."
Fede repeated the timeline of events surrounding the alleged abuse for jurors at the Santa Maria Superior Court.
Doe 1 was about 5 years old when Kardel first touched her vagina, the prosecutor argued, and didn't come forward until Nov. 9, 2015, after a "good touch/bad touch" presentation at her school.
Doe 2 was 8 years old when the first alleged incident occurred inside Kardel's living room, where they were tickling each other and Kardel allegedly put his finger inside her vagina, Fede said. The touching happened a second time when she was in junior high, Fede continued.
The next incidents occurred in 2015 inside the storeroom shed in Kardel's backyard when Doe 2 was a sophomore, Fede added.
Fede also reminded jurors that the conviction of a sex assault crime may be based on the testimony of a complaining witness alone.
"These crimes almost never have witnesses," but Doe 1 saw Kardel touching her sister when she was very young, Fede said.
"That's what it comes down to: Who's telling the truth?" Fede asked. "If you believe [the girls], that is sufficient evidence."
When the girls' mother found out and confronted him with a recorded phone call, Kardel denied touching Doe 1 but did agree that he touched Doe 2, Fede argued.
Fede also played the pretext phone call for the jurors, despite defense's objections. Again, jurors heard Kardel tell his daughter that what happened between he and Doe 2 was "consensual" and that "she'd grab me down below, and it was a deal between [us.]"
"She came onto me; I was a stupid male and I went along with it," Kardel said in the recording.
Fede denied the acts were consensual and argued Kardel didn't want people to know about his secret.
"This wasn't consensual. A little girl, with an 80-something-year-old man who's her grandfather, who wanted it? That's ridiculous," she said.
During her closing arguments, defense attorney Catherine Swysen maintained that her client emphatically denied ever touching either of the girls and called the allegations "disgusting."
She also claimed both girls made conflicting statements about the events, including when Doe 1 testified that she saw her grandfather touch Doe 2 in a bed, which Doe 2 confirmed didn't happen.
Swysen added that the girls' mother had always reminded them to disclose any type of abuse.
"Doe 2 testified she was afraid nobody would believe her," Swysen said. "That's not true. Her mother would."
"In 2007, Doe 1 said her stepsister touched her labia, and she had no problems telling her mom about that," said Swysen, adding, "when Doe 2 went to the doctor when she had an infection, she didn't tell the doctor or her mom about being touched then, because it did not happen."
When Doe 2 would go to the storeroom shed with him, "nothing sexual occurred," Swysen argued, and when Doe 2 took his hand and pushed it down, "he pulled his hand away.'
"He told her that she started it, so she could stop it," Swysen said. "When his daughter accuses him, 'You fingered [Doe 2],' he interrupts and says that he 'put his hand down there,' which are two very different things."
Swysen also claimed Kardel never dissuaded his daughter from reporting him but did want the chance to discuss things in person with his daughter.
"But if it wasn't (resolved), his daughter was free to go to the police," Swysen said.
As for Doe 2 accusing Kardel of having her rub his penis until he ejaculated, Swysen maintained that was not credible "because he [was] 82 at the time and he hasn't been able to get an erection for years."
Swysen also reminded jurors they heard evidence of Kardel's honest, truthful character from his longtime friends.
"Yes, the witnesses were upset, but you have to set that aside," Swysen said, "and I submit that you cannot say beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Kardel is guilty of the crime he's accused of."