By KAREN VELIE
A Cambria man accused of sexual assault was found guilty on Friday of three lesser charges, of which the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office and the defendant’s attorney do not agree.
In 2017, the district attorney’s office charged Herbert Connor, 72, with three felony counts – sexual assault with the intention of committing rape, sexual battery, and sexual assault – regarding the groping and restraint of a 67-year-old Cambria woman. If convicted of the three felony counts, Connor faced seven years in prison.
The jury, composed of eight women and four men, instead found Connor guilty of misdemeanor charges of sexual assault and sexual battery, and a “wobbler” charge of sexual battery by restraint. A “wobbler” is a crime that can be punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
During the trial, District Attorney Dan Dow and Connor’s attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu rarely agreed. Shortly after the verdict was rendered, the district attorney’s office announced in a press release that Connor is facing four years in prison for a felony sexual battery by restraint conviction, and six months each for the two misdemeanor convictions.
Funke-Bilu found the district attorney’s determinations faulty. Because the jury forms did not describe the sexual battery by restraint charge as a felony, the court should determine it was a misdemeanor, Funke-Bilu said.
Sitting in for Dow during the reading of the verdict, Deputy District Attorney Michael Frye sought to have Connor taken into custody and booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail until his sentencing. Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy denied Frye’s request.
As for the two remaining misdemeanors, because the convictions did not follow the required timeline, the convictions should be acquitted, Funke-Bilu said. During the sentencing hearing, Dow and Funke-Bilu will argue their points.
Throughout the case, Funke-Bilu accused Dow of wrongdoing including prosecuting the case for political reasons, trivializing reasonable doubt in his questioning of prospective jurors, and withholding DNA evidence.
Connor’s sentencing is scheduled for March 20.