This is part two of a two-part article on the Kenneth Waters trial. It continues mid-testimony from the victim. Part one ran in Monday’s edition and can be found here.
Kenneth Waters, the bail bondsman accused of prostitution, was found guilty on Jan. 10 after his trial began the previous day, following testimony from his victim.
“I was just trying to make small talk,” the victim, identified only as Jane Doe, said of the conversation in the car after Waters bailed her out of jail. “Normal life stuff.”
She said he was talking “like he was going to expect something out of me.” As he drove her around Placerville, she answered the phone for him, discussed his wife and daughter and how he does bail bonds “on the side, just for fun,” she said. They arrived at the Best Western on Missouri Flat Road in Placerville. She stayed in the car while he checked in a room for two.
“He wanted to do oral on me,” she said. She was unable to pay the full bond premium, so a deal was worked out. “Half the money in the next day or two and half,” she paused a few seconds before continuing, “whatever he wanted me to do.”
When asked exactly what he had proposed to do while driving in the car, she said she “wasn’t sure what it actually was,” but believed it would happen in the hotel. She said it was for the bail, that she had agreed to some sort of sexual act — oral copulation — but no more than that. After being shown a report she based off an interview with two El Dorado County Sheriff’s detectives, she remembered that he had wanted intercourse. She, however, said no, as she had a boyfriend and would be uncomfortable with that. Waters “sounded disappointed.”
Once in the room, both Doe’s and Waters’ pants were removed and he performed oral sex on her.
“Did you want to have oral sex with him?” deputy district attorney Trish Kelliher asked. She replied that no, but “I felt obligated, like I had to … because he bailed me out.” She also said that “I was just uncomfortable and he could tell,” so he stopped. “I just apologized that I didn’t go through with it. I was uncomfortable and scared.” The total time in the hotel was about 30 minutes.
Waters then drove her back to her home in Amador County. The ride was mostly silent, though Waters told her, “Don’t worry about it.” Before he said that, she said, she felt she still owed him money. She signed papers for his records, which he filled out to look like she actually paid. That was the last she saw of him until her first court date.
She did not tell anyone of what happened until Detectives Strasser and Fitzgerald approached her.
Since her DUI and the incident with Waters, she said, she kicked her prescription drug problem by voluntarily going to rehab and has been clean for two years, with a full-time job and school.
Under questioning from Dudek, she said that she crashed her parents’ car while texting, but had taken prescription pain medication the night before, leading to the DUI charge. “I wouldn’t say I was high,” she said. When asked if she was still on drugs when she made phone calls to Waters from jail, she said she was not, and that if she was, she would not have been able to speak properly.
She continued to say she was not flirting with Waters, and that she was not trying to lead him on. She later admitted, though, that it was fair to say she was getting his hopes up “so that he would consider bailing me out.”
When asked by Dudek if she “wanted him to think he might get sex,” she said, “I think you are kind of putting words in my mouth. I never said that.” She said she would not be the one to bring up anything sexual, noting that after meeting him, she was afraid of him. “I’ve never been that uncomfortable in my life.”
When asked if she was ready to do anything to get out of jail, she said no.
Dudek also repeatedly questioned her on her probation from her previous DUI, and whether the new DUI or a possible prostitution charge would violate that and she would have to serve time.
When asked by Kelliher whether she wanted to be in court testifying, Doe said she did not. She was there under subpoena, the same with prior hearings. She had no other motivation, such as immunity, to be there.
Her main objective, while on the phone with Waters, she said, was to get out of jail. She got a “creepy vibe” from Waters.
After a few questions confirming details, she was excused and both sides rested their arguments. After the jury was out, a heated debate between the attorneys led to one of two items being excluded as evidence.
The next morning, Jan. 10, saw both sides giving closing statements.
Kelliher stressed that sex had been given for something of value — the very definition of prostitution. She also said it was an abuse of power by Waters, a bail bondsman, who saw people at their most vulnerable. All of the evidence corroborated this, with what Waters had said on the phone to Doe. “She’s definitely playing along, leading him on, absolutely,” to get out of jail, she told the jury. “What kind of deal could be worked out if she has no money?”
She concluded there was no reason to doubt the testimony of Jane Doe, a 21-year-old with a drug problem. She was not innocent, but not sophisticated to implicate Waters. Kelliher called Waters a “sleazy bondsman” as there was no better word. As for the bail bond, “She paid for it. She paid for it with her body.” There were also details she could not have known unless the events occurred as she described, like Waters taking the room out for two people rather than one.
Dudek’s closing focused on whether Kelliher had proven that Waters was guilty and whether Doe was a trustworthy witness. “Did (Kelliher) prove this case? No. No.”
He said that she continually testified with answers of “I don’t know” and “I don’t remember,” concerning an agreement of sex for half the bail premium. “Why was there so much about an agreement?” he asked, noting that it would take an agreement for it to be considered prostitution. He noticed that her answers changed only after reading transcripts. “Why didn’t she remember before? Does the truth change for Ms. Doe?”
Dudek added that the jury should ask themselves if they “trust a shred of evidence” from Doe, noting she admitted to lying on the phone.
And perhaps, he said, what Waters said was inappropriate and he was flirting, but that is not a crime. “Guy becomes hopeful,” he said, with Doe trying to lead him on. “Is it a crime for him to hope? Was he led on?” Dudek asked. He compared the incident to buying dinner for a date, and whether sex was expected after that.
Kelliher, in her rebuttal, said that blustering and speculating what happened was not proof. Doe stated what she believed happened, there’s no evidence of any “secret back room deal the defense is alluding to” to get Doe to testify, and that there was “no reason to perform sex other than for the bail bond.”
The jury was let out for deliberation at around 11:30 a.m. They returned a verdict about an hour later, with the hearing at 1 p.m.
Waters was found guilty on one count of prostitution. Dudek requested a poll of the jury; the 10 women and two men all replied that the guilty verdict was indeed their verdict.
A judgment and sentencing hearing will be held on Feb. 15 at 1:30 p.m. in Department 2.