Prosecutors seek enhanced sentence for Clews in child-porn case

Prosecutors in the case against Carmel Valley horse ranch owner Christian Clews - who pleaded guilty in July to charges of one count each of possessing and distributing child pornography - will seek additional prison time for the defendant due to allegations of sexual impropriety with minors.

Clews, a former member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Group, faces a maximum of 40 years in prison based on the two counts against him. Sentencing is set for Jan. 18 before U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw.

In a plea agreement filed with the court in July, the prosecution and defense jointly agreed to recommend a sentence of 34 years in prison. However, prosecutors wrote that they will seek an additional five years of incarceration for Clews based on an alleged “pattern of activity involving the sexual abuse or exploitation of a minor.”

Those allegations of sexual impropriety are at the heart of a dispute between the prosecution and defense as Clews’ sentencing date approaches. The court documents do not include the number of witnesses who have come forward; however, there is a reference to “multiple women” who were interviewed by law enforcement.

On Dec. 11, Jennifer Wirsching, one of Clews’ attorneys, filed a motion with the court seeking unredacted witness statements involving the alleged acts of impropriety. According to the defense motion, the prosecution provided the statements with the women’s names and contact information redacted.

The defense claims it needs the identities of the alleged victims to properly defend Clews. Wirsching wrote in the motion that Assistant U.S. Attorney Renee Green has refused to provide the unredacted statements, instead saying, “Ask your client if you want to know who these people are.”

In response to the defense motion, Green wrote that the identities of the alleged victims, who are now adult women, were redacted from their written statements to protect their privacy “due to the sexual nature of the information provided and the ages of the reporting parties at the times the conduct was alleged, and because the reporting parties expressed a continuing fear of retribution from the defendant and others.”

Neither Green nor Wirsching responded to a request for comment by press-time.

Green wrote in her response that two of the alleged victims have identified themselves and others in pornographic videos found in Clews’ home. In addition, she said the alleged victims separately described similar sexual advances made toward them at young ages, including the defendant’s mannerisms, deviant sexual preferences and vulgar speech.

Text messages sent by Clews before his arrest and analyzed by law enforcement officials described similar patterns of behavior as was related by the alleged victims, Green wrote.

A hearing on the defense motion to obtain the alleged victim’s identifying information is set for Jan. 10 before Judge Sabraw.

Wirsching stated in her motion that the defense will seek an extension of time to file objections to the pre-sentence report, which was prepared by the U.S. Probation Office and “opines” on the prosecution’s effort to enhance Clews’ sentence based on the sexual abuse allegations.

However, in its response, the prosecution requested that sentencing take place on Jan. 18 as scheduled.