When charges are filed in most criminal cases, one of the most important pieces of evidence is when the crime occured. Establishing an exact date and time a crime allegedly took place can be pivotal to both the prosecution and the defense. This is not true in sex offense cases. In child rape and molestation cases, the time of the sex offense can be very vague. If an underage sexual victim can clearly recall molestation, and gives a time frame prior to the statute of limitations running out (before the victim turns age 30), then the lack of an exact date will not be an evidence problem.
Illustrating how time doesn’t matter in child rape, is the case of Mr. Easton Yallup. Yallup lived in Goldendale with the 14 year old victim’s mother. He was charged with two counts of Rape of a Child in the First Degree for conduct occurring when the victim was 10 and 11 years old. The Klickitat County prosecutor alleged the rapes occurred sometime between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2013 – so sometime over a four-year period.
The victim, “M.V.” was 14 when she testified that the first incident occurred when she was ten and had just finished the 4th grade, and the molestations ended shortly before her twelfth birthday. M.V. was born August 2002, and her fourth-grade year ended in 2013. Therefore, even though the State complaint alleged a four-year time frame, there was a comparatively “narrow” time window of 16 months when the various acts occurred. M.V. was very clear that oral sex and digital penetration happened “more than ten times”. The Court found that M.V.’s testimony was credible and sufficient to sustain a conviction. The two counts were within the charging period.
Yallup challenged the sex offense evidence as insufficient.
Yallup waived a jury trial and tried his case to “the bench” (judge only). He was convicted on two counts of child rape. The Appellate Court reiterated that M.V. met the “test of credibility”: (1) she was able to describe the “kind of acts” with sufficient specificity; (2) she was able to describe the “number of acts” committed to support each count; and (3) she was able to describe the “general time period” the acts occurred.
A jury may have viewed the vagueness of when the alleged crimes occurred differently. Yallup presumably waived a jury due to M.V.’s graphic depictions, perhaps hoping that the timing of the acts was vague enough for an acquittal. The strategy could also have been that if an act occurred past her 12th birthday, the crime would be the less serious crime of Rape of a Child 2, with significantly less punitive guidelines.
Yallup is important because the case emphasizes that “time is not an element of most sex offenses”. When the State alleges a sex offense occurred “on or about” a time frame of months or even years, abusers cannot claim the case lacks enough time specificity to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant is unable to claim an alibi – he can’t prove he wasn’t there when the time frame is so broad. The lack of evidence regarding the specific time of the crime is not a defense. Time doesn’t matter in child rape cases.