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Alleged child molester released after attorney argues 'unusual circumstances' due to COVID-19

From the Calaveras Enterprise.

San Andreas resident and contractor Brian Paul Ames, charged with 18 felony counts related to the continual sexual abuse of a minor, has been released back into the community where his alleged victim still resides.

During a Tuesday trial setting conference at the Calaveras County Superior Court, Ames was issued a bail amount of $350,000 by visiting Tuolumne County Judge Douglas C. Boyack after his attorney argued that he should be released under house arrest at his parents' nearby home, due to the “unusual circumstances” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The governor of this state has declared a (state) of emergency. Gov. Newsom has said, and his counsel has said, that we are in a once-in-a-century pandemic,” Ames’ attorney Brian Chavez-Ochoa stated in a court transcript of the proceedings. “If that’s not unusual circumstances, I don’t know what is.”

Chavez-Ochoa argued that the defendant should be allowed to self-isolate in the event of a “second surge” of COVID-19 cases in Calaveras County.

“He has a clean record. He’s been a local contractor here for years. Very well-known,” Chavez-Ochoa said. “He has family in the area. He has no reason to flee.”

The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Ames, 50, subsequently posted bail and was released from county jail on Tuesday. Another trial setting conference is scheduled for his case on July 7.

Ames has been awaiting trial since October of 2018, when he was arrested at a Valley Springs residence and initially denied bail by Calaveras County Superior Court Judge Timothy Healy.

The county District Attorney’s Office alleges that Ames’ abuse of the victim began around the age of 5 and continued until the age of 15, at which time the crimes were reported. They have also asserted that the defendant confessed to numerous crimes during a pretextual phone call.

Deputy District Attorney Stacy Tyler argued strongly against issuing bail on Tuesday, voicing concerns for the safety and wellbeing of the alleged victim, who still lives in the area.

After setting “the highest” bail amount for his charges, Judge Boyack issued a restraining order against Ames, prohibiting him from going near the alleged victim.

When asked by the judge if he understood the terms of his release, Ames responded, “Absolutely, yes. Yeah, until she comes up to apologize, I mean, I’m staying clear.”

Ames has pleaded not guilty to all charges including rape of a person by force and eight counts of sexual penetration of a victim under 14. He stated during Tuesday’s hearing that he was “upset” with the alleged victim for “making that stuff up.”

In justifying Ames’ release, Chavez-Ochoa cited temporary COVID-19 emergency rules imposed by California’s Judicial Council mandating $0 bail for most nonviolent offenses and allowing superior courts to reduce bail amounts for serious felonies that are not eligible for $0 bail.

However, the Valley Springs-based attorney has made headlines in recent weeks opposing COVID-19 related orders at the state and county levels.

On May 8, Chavez-Ochoa, claiming to represent roughly 30 area businesses, threatened to sue Calaveras County for enforcing Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order. He stated in his letter to the county that the executive order “was not an order at all, but merely a suggestion.”

Chavez-Ochoa rebuked local Health Officer Dean Kelaita, MD, for closing businesses “under the guise of a health emergency,” denouncing an “infinitesimal” number of COVID-19 cases within the county.

“Dr. Kelaita has also suggested that we cannot reopen because he is waiting for the ‘second surge.’ I would suggest that the aforementioned numbers clearly indicate Calaveras County never experienced a ‘first surge,’” Chavez-Ochoa stated.

The attorney also filed a lawsuit last week against the City of Lodi, San Joaquin County and state officials, including Gov. Newsom, on behalf of gym franchise owner Sean Covell, arguing the unconstitutionality of multiple orders imposed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

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