By PAUL YOUNG
A probationer pursued a 13-year-old Riverside girl walking home from school and traumatized her to the point she feared for her life, making him guilty of annoying a minor, a prosecutor alleged Monday, but the man’s attorney questioned the accuracy of the teen’s account.
James Michael Sheehy, 52, could face a year in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor offense, stemming from his alleged Dec. 11 contact with the girl identified in court documents as Jane Doe.
“This child was minding her own business, and this defendant starts whistling at her,” said Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Amberlie Romney. “He pops out of the bushes and whistles some more. This 50-year-old man is harassing this 13-year-old girl, letting her know he thinks she’s cute.”
Romney alleged in her opening statement that Sheehy started trailing closely behind the girl, persisting in trying to get her to acknowledge him.
“He says, `Hey, come here. Come here,”’ Romney said. “He walks toward her until he’s just a few feet away, continually telling her to `come here.’ She is so afraid she screams and takes off running.”
According to the prosecutor, the child and Sheehy were the only two people that afternoon walking in the area of Lincoln and Abraham avenues.
The girl had just left Gage Junior High School and was headed to a corner where her mother was expected to retrieve her.
“Finally, she sees her mother coming toward her in the pickup truck, and she jumps inside, crying,” Romney said.
Sheehy was arrested less than two weeks later after the girl identified him in a photographic lineup.
His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Kim Bhatia, told jurors that her client “never met or spoke to this young lady.”
“There are big problems with this case,” Bhatia said. “Why is James even sitting in that chair?”
The attorney questioned the accuracy of what the witness told investigators.
“At no time will I belittle her testimony. But there are issues,” Bhatia said. “Use common sense in forming your opinion about this case.”
At the time of his arrest, Sheehy was on felony probation for a drug possession conviction last year, according to court records, which showed multiple drug-related convictions over the past decade, along with convictions for shoplifting and theft.
He’s being held on $25,000 bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning.