Details Continue to Emerge in SMC Library Attack Case
Chase Guy Reynolds, the man recently cleared of the sexual assault of a SMC student on Apr. 4, remained in jail for six months, despite the release of forensic evidence indicating his innocence less than two months into his incarceration.
As a result of what his private investigator Tawni Tyndall describes as "a myriad of errors on every front, apart from the Department of Justice," Reynolds remained in jail, where repeated and violent assaults by inmates continued unabated.
Tyndall, who worked alongside defense attorney Gregory P. Humphries to prove Reynolds' innocence, insists that a properly conducted police investigation would have prevented Reynolds ever facing charges for the alleged attack. But even when a DNA report exculpating Reynolds was mailed by the Department of Justice to the Santa Monica Police Department and the Los Angeles Regional Crime Lab on May 15, the findings were ignored.
"This should have been alarming when they [SMPD and LA Regional Crime Lab] received this," said Tyndall. "The report was held for two months before we ever saw it, and during this time we repeatedly asked for it to be sent [to us]." But when Tyndall and Humphries received their copy of the report on July 14, it was not enough to secure Reynolds his freedom, despite the findings proving startling.
According to Tyndall, the report, using swabs taken from the alleged victim on the night of the attack, revealed a trace amount of male DNA on the swab taken from the victim's stomach, which was inconsistent with saliva, and too minute to type a DNA profile. More importantly, the DNA found in the victim's naval cavity, which was consistent with saliva, was found to be that of the victim. In the official police report taken the day after the alleged attack, the victim stated that the suspect had licked her stomach and naval repeatedly, causing soreness.
When asked about the Department of Justice's report, Deputy District Attorney David Zygielbaum said that while two of the swabs taken the night of the attack confirmed the absence of Reynolds' DNA on the victim, the third was still inconclusive. He also stated he has "no plans to re-file at this point."
A string of physical and psychological abuses marred Reynolds' time in jail, and constant threats were made on his life, said Tyndall.
"He was held down by inmates while they passed around his papers," Tyndall said. "They did a mini-trial, and he was green-lighted, meaning anyone could hurt him because of the type of crime his papers list him as being in for."
According to Tyndall, his papers list his charges as rape, mayhem, and robbery, and though he was regularly moved as a result of the constant threats made on his life, he was beaten so severely, he necessitated a spell in the prison infirmary.
The case against Reynolds, said Tyndall, was littered with a number of irregularities from the outset.
"The alarm bells should have been ringing," even as early as a few hours after the attack occurred, when the victim identified another suspect from video footage of the library, said Tyndall. This was absent from the original police report, which Tyndall feels may have been a result of the victim's friend, who was present at the viewing, actively influencing proceedings.
Then there are the events surrounding Reynolds' arrest three days after the alleged attack that warrant examination.
According to Tyndall, the victim's friend, who felt confident she knew the identity of the suspect through conversations with the victim, identified Reynolds in the college library, whereupon she alerted her mother. The police were immediately contacted, and Reynolds was arrested and handcuffed before being taken to the N.W. corner of Ocean Park and 16th Street, where the victim formally identified Reynolds from the back of a police car as she was driven past.
"This was a ‘show-up' because they put him in a corner all by himself," said Tyndall. "['Show-ups are] very prejudicial because it gives the presumption of guilt, there's no one else to choose from. They're not supposed to be used unless [it's] moments after a crime has occurred. [Reynolds] didn't even match the profile of the suspect given by the victim."
When asked about the circumstances that led to Reynolds' arrest, Sgt. Jay Trisler, SMPD press information officer, said that it is an "active ongoing investigation." He also said that he would "check and see" about the events on the day of Reynolds' arrest, but had yet to reply as of Corsair deadline.
What is also worth noting is that over the course of the three days preceding the alleged assault, Tyndall said the victim's account of the attack shifted to incorporate inflated charges.
The victim's initial statement, Tyndall said, stated that the assailant had licked her naval repeatedly causing soreness, whereas the victim later claimed that the suspect had licked her so aggressively it caused her naval piercing to dislodge. This, in conjunction with a number of altered claims, including the charge of robbery absent from the original police report, Tyndall feels should have alerted the police to the questionable veracity of the victim's claims.
According to the D.A.'s office, Reynolds was officially charged on Apr. 9 of two counts of sexual battery by restraint, one count of sexual penetration by a foreign object, and one count of second degree robbery: all felonies. Bail was set at $250,000.
The defense team wasted no time in trying to overturn the charges; however, they were faced immediately with a wall of silence when attempting to obtain evidence connected with the case; evidence that could have proved invaluable in substantiating Reynolds' innocence.
"We subpoenaed Jesse Eller, the forensic specialist, who went to the college to do Latent Print testing and photography in the area of the assault," said Tyndall. "To date we've received nothing of the tests that he's performed."
She continued, "If there were no prints from the wall, it's exculpatory. If there were other prints on the wall, it's exculpatory. Either way, based on her description of the assault, his finger prints should be all over the wall, but to date we've received nothing from [Eller]."
It is not only the LA Regional Crime Lab whom Tyndall and Humphries found uncooperative. Despite issuing multiple subpoenas to the Santa Monica Police Department and LA District Attorney's Office for the release of any evidence they possessed in their case against Reynolds, Tyndall said their appeals went completely ignored.
When asked whether the D.A.'s office had held onto any evidence that might have exculpated Reynolds, Zygielbaum said that he had "turned everything over immediately" upon request.
Reynolds was finally released on Sept. 23, nearly six months after his nightmare began, when, according to Tyndall, the LA Regional Crime Lab's report reaffirmed that no trace of Reynolds' DNA was found either on the victim's clothes, or at the scene of the crime. Tyndall said the findings also revealed that the belt belonging to the victim, which was removed for DNA testing the night of the alleged attack, contained two semen deposits belonging to two different donors.
According to Tyndall, the victim accounted for this by claiming that her friend's stepfather had molested her three days after the incident in the library. It is believed that the victim, who had been living with her friend's family, has left California to be nearer her family.
All this will be of little comfort to Reynolds. "He's just trying to get back on his feet," said Tyndall. "He's trying to get a job – they didn't give him a dime on his release."
Tyndall continued, "I can't tell you the amount of hours the attorney has worked pro bono, and I've worked pro bono, literally hundreds of hours, just because we believe so strongly in his innocence."
If anyone has any information regarding this story, please contact either the Corsair newsroom on 310 434 4340, or Tawni Tyndall by phone, 818 414 2059, by email, www.ontheqt.net.