Judge vacates 67-year-old Sioux City man’s guilty verdict for enticing a minor
SIOUX CITY — A judge has vacated a jury verdict in which a Sioux City man was found guilty of offering a 14-year-old girl $600 for sex, ruling there was not enough evidence presented at trial to show the man knew the girl was underage.
District Judge Jeffrey Neary granted a defense motion for a judgment of acquittal, found Danny Beard not guilty of the charge of enticing away a minor and dismissed the case.
A jury in August found Beard, 67, guilty at the conclusion of a two-day trial in Woodbury County District Court. He had faced a five-year prison sentence for the Class D felony.
Neary, who presided over the trial, focused his ruling on the fourth element of the crime: that at the time of the Nov. 14 incident, Beard “reasonably believed (the girl) was under 16.”
In his ruling, Neary said his review of the trial transcript and video exhibits and recollection of the evidence led him to conclude the prosecution presented no definitive evidence Beard knew the girl’s age prior to the incident.
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“It is clear to the court on this evidence that the age of (the girl) was not clear at the time of the incident and further that nothing in this evidence would indicate that (she) was under the age of 16 at the time of the incident,” Neary wrote.
Beard was accused of pulling up next to the girl in his pickup truck as she was walking in the parking lot of her grandmother’s apartment complex, asking what a “pretty girl” like her was doing out so late and then asking, “You want to come with me?” before saying, “I’ll give you 500 (dollars).”
Beard, who lived in the same apartment complex, parked his pickup and approached the girl as she was entering the apartment building and offered the girl $500 to come up to his apartment, then raised his offer to $600. The girl went to her grandmother’s apartment, and her grandmother filed a police report.
Beard later told an investigator he thought the girl was someone else and that his offer of money was for cleaning his apartment, not for sex. He told police he did not know the girl’s age until after the incident.
In his resistance to the defense’s motion for a new trial, Assistant Woodbury County Attorney James Loomis said the evidence should be taken together in context rather than singled out. Video surveillance, he said, showed not only what Beard said to the girl, but how he said it, leaving viewers to conclude he was offering money for sex. The girl also visited her grandmother several times a week and often encountered Beard, who was familiar with her and would have “reasonably known” she was under age 16.
Neary said in his ruling that in the video and during her trial testimony, the girl appeared mature for her age, and he himself would have guessed she was between age 16-18. Neary also said it was dark at the time Beard encountered the girl, who, the judge said, resembles her older sister who was living with their grandmother.
The prosecution’s evidence, Neary said, did little more than “raise suspicion, speculation and conjecture” that Beard would have reasonably known the girl was under age 16.