An appeals court today upheld the conviction of a former school aide accused of arranging a child pornography ring out of his Desert Hot Springs home, in which three underage boys were abused.
John David Yoder, 47, was convicted in early 2016 and sentenced to 24 years in state prison for molesting a boy in his care and helping three other men allegedly sexually abuse two other boys that the defendants met at a local skate park. Yoder and the other three suspects, Noland Anthony Harper of Richmond, Virginia, William Clyde Thompson, of Las Vegas, and Erick Monsivais, of Los Angeles, also allegedly created child pornography of the victims.
Harper, Thompson and Monsivais still await trial.
“They’re all friends, and they’re wreaking havoc on this community,” Deputy District Attorney William Robinson told jurors during the trial. “They only care about their own selfish desires.”
Robinson identified Yoder as the ringleader, asserting that “Mr. Yoder’s home was a lion’s den.”
According to the three justice panel’s brief, Yoder met Thompson through a website called “boylover.org,” then met with Thompson at his Las Vegas home, where Thompson was under house arrest, awaiting trial on federal child pornography charges. Yoder assisted Thompson in breaking off his ankle bracelet monitor and the pair traveled back to Yoder’s Desert Hot Springs home, where Yoder was living with an 11-year-old victim, the brief states.
After Thompson moved in, the men began frequenting a local skate park, where they met with two other victims, both also around 10 or 11 years old, the brief states.
Thompson later met Monsivais and Harper online and allegedly brought the men into the fold.
A Banning jury convicted Yoder of four counts of lewd acts on a child under 14, two counts each of human trafficking of a child and procuring a child for sex, as well as one count each of conspiracy to produce child pornography and harboring a fugitive.
On appeal, Yoder’s attorneys contended that Yoder’s two convictions for procuring a child for sex should have been reversed because jurors convicted him on the theory that he aided or abetted others in child procurement, referring specifically to the two victims Thompson is accused of introducing to Monsivais and Harper.
Yoder’s attorneys argued that the evidence was insufficient to support those convictions, but the panel disagreed, arguing there was “substantial evidence” to support that Yoder helped Thompson meet the boys, provided Thompson with a car so that Thompson could drive himself and one of the victims to Los Angeles to meet with Monsivais, and provided Thompson with his apartment and the internet access he needed to meet Monsivais and Harper.
Yoder’s attorneys also argued that six online payments Harper made to Yoder should have been ruled inadmissible at trial, but were testified to by a Department of Homeland Security Investigator who discovered them. The payments were discovered shortly before the trial began, during the jury selection process. Yoder’s trial attorneys argued that the evidence, which hadn’t been shared with the defense because the payments were uncovered so late, shouldn’t have been revealed to the jury, but the trial judge allowed their admission.
The appeals panel ruled that though prosecutors committed a “discovery violation,” it was not egregious enough to likely affect the verdict, as other evidence already detailed Yoder accepting money from Thompson and Monsivais.