POCATELLO — After a two-and-a-half-day trial, the jury deliberated for nearly eight hours before finding a former Bannock County resident guilty on two of three charges.
Todd Marshall Frandsen, 54, was found guilty on two counts of lewd conduct with a minor and not guilty on a third count Friday. The charges were filed on behalf of three separate victims, all of whom were under the age of sixteen at the time.
The youngest of those victims, now 10 years old, commented while he exited the courtroom.
“This is so much better than Christmas or a birthday,” the child said.
“It’s the best ever because you’re safe, huh,” the boy’s mother followed.
Frandsen was arrested in August following an investigation initiated after one of the victims came forward about years of physical, psychological and sexual abuse.
According to the victims, Frandsen, who is related to all three boys, terrorized them for years before he began to grope and in some cases attack them sexually.
Prosecuting Attorney Erin Tognetti presented her case Wednesday, having all three victims testify.
The oldest, now 23, said that Frandsen would grab the boy’s genitals while rubbing his own. The youngest was around 4 years old when he said Frandsen rubbed his face on the boy’s genitals. The last victim, now 20, described one night when Frandsen climbed into his bed, pinned him down and rubbed his nude body on the boy’s back and rear end.
Defense attorney Ryan Black presented his case Thursday, calling expert witnesses who claimed, among other things, that Frandsen did not show signs of someone with a sexual interest in children or men.
Black argued the allegations were not made until after a family disagreement. He claimed that the boys were “coached” into accusing Frandsen of his sexual attacks.
The defense also called character witnesses to the stand, who testified that the boys were controlled by their mother, who, they claimed, controlled every facet of the boys’ lives.
During closing arguments Friday morning, both attorneys re-asserted their claims.
Tognetti asked the jury to think about the 20-year-old, who began to cry when asked why he did not come forward with the allegations sooner.
“What kind of coward lets this happen to himself,” he said.
She reminded the jury that the oldest of the victims, who remained composed throughout much of his testimony, was asked if he had been coached into making the allegations.
“Why would anybody make up something like this?” he responded, beginning to cry. “This isn’t easy to talk about — this isn’t something you just make up.”
During his closing argument, Black laid out a timeline on a whiteboard. He implored jurors to see that the allegations were linked to the disagreement, and connected the claims to “coaching.”
He pointed to the fact that one of the victims seemed to accept an interview begrudgingly and noted a comment made during the interview in which he said he was there to “be a good dog” and do as he was told.
Black pointed to the language used by the 10-year-old victim. A father of a 9-year-old, he said, his child has never used words like “genitalia” — as the victim did.
He said these were all signs that pointed to coaching.
In her rebuttal, Tognetti attacked those claims directly.
The young child, she said, only learned the language he used because he has been forced into counseling and interviews with child advocacy groups due to the attacks.
Black closed his arguments by explaining to the jury that they did not have to find Frandsen innocent, only not guilty. Reasonable doubt, he said, means that one year from now, given the opportunity to hear the unequivocal answer to whether Frandsen committed the crimes of which he was accused, they would not care because they were already certain of that answer.
District Judge Rick Carnaroli sent the jury into deliberation just before 2 p.m.
It was not until almost 10 p.m. that word from inside the jury deliberation room came out that the 12 jurors had reached a unanimous decision.
Tears poured from both sides of the courtroom as the verdict of count one was read — guilty.
On one side of the room, the victims and their families embraced. On the other side, friends, family and the children of Frandsen expressed disappointment.
The jury found Frandsen guilty of lewd conduct with the two older victims, but not guilty of lewd conduct with the youngest of the victims.
Asked for a comment following the verdict, the oldest victims said, simply, “euphoria.”
“I am beyond words,” he said. “Todd has tormented me and my family my entire life and none of my family has slept in years — especially my (10-year-old) brother, and I know that tonight he can finally sleep. I’m just happy that no one has to live in fear anymore.”
Frandsen was remanded to Bannock County Jail, where he will await sentencing, scheduled for May 28 before Carnaroli. Each of the two charges carries with it a potential life sentence.