Report: Santa Clara County prosecutor used daughter as bait to catch molester
SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - A Santa Clara County prosecutor used his 13-year-old daughter to lure a man back to the spot where she said he had molested her, so the man’s incriminating actions could be recorded on video, according to a newspaper report Sunday.
The suspect has been arrested but the prosecutor is under scrutiny for possibly endangering his child, the Mercury News reported, citing police reports and sources familiar with the case.
Ali Mohammad Lajmiri, 76, of San Jose is charged with lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14 and false imprisonment. It’s not known if he has an attorney.
The molestation was the subject of an active police investigation at the time that the prosecutor brought his daughter back to the scene, the Los Alamitos Trail in Almaden Valley. After recording video of the man interacting with his daughter, the prosecutor gave the recording to the police. Lajmiri was arrested the next day.
The prosecutor told police that he and the girl had arranged for her to walk back and forth on the trail, while the two of them stayed in touch with cellphones and earbuds.
“He stated that they had already done this several times,” San Jose Detective Sgt. Sean Pierce wrote in the police report on the case. “He directed (the victim) to let (the suspect) touch her if she encountered him, but if it was the breast or between the legs to move away. He instructed (the victim) to let (the suspect) identify and make the contact and if she cannot handle things she should move away. He instructed (the victim) to walk back and forth on the designated route and don’t interact with anyone for very long.”
The idea that a prosecutor would interfere in an active police investigation and have his daughter essentially serve as bait for a suspected predator was met with dismay by members of the local law enforcement community, including some of the prosecutor’s colleagues and police officers who have worked with him.
Multiple sources confirmed the prosecutor’s identity to the newspaper. The Mercury News did not name him to protect the identity of the underage sexual assault victim.
The state Attorney General’s office has taken over the prosecution of the molestation case because of the conflicts of interest involved. Such conflicts already existed because of the prosecutor’s relationship to the victim and became more pronounced after his efforts to insert himself into the case and gather evidence against the suspect.
Sources also told the newspaper that state prosecutors are exploring potential child endangerment charges against the prosecutor.
Through the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, the prosecutor declined to comment. The DA’s office declined to comment specifically on the prosecutor’s actions, but it released a short statement on the case.
The sexual assault investigation began Oct. 8, a day after the victim told her doctor that she had been sexually assaulted. In the ensuing police investigation, she gave accounts of three instances between August and October in which the same man approached her while she was walking her dog on the trail and touched her sexually.
San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia declined to comment specifically on the case and the prosecutor’s involvement, but generally advised against citizens taking the law into their own hands.
“As a father, I understand how emotional it can be when your child is the victim of a crime. But we have to remember that the safety of the child comes first,” Garcia said, “and channel that frustration in a positive way to assist the investigation and not hinder it.”
Lajmiri is being held in the Santa Clara County jail on $3 million bail. He is scheduled to return to court Jan. 29