Jury deliberations started Thursday in the trial of a La Quinta man accused of having a sexual relationship with his girlfriend's then- 14-year-old sister.
Defendant Daniel Patrick Armstrong, 32, is charged with four felony counts -- oral copulation with a person under 16, committing a lewd act with a child under 16, sexual penetration with a foreign object and furnishing marijuana to a minor.
According to Deputy District Attorney Brijida Rodarte, Armstrong started spending time with the girl after he and her older sister -- with whom he was dating and living -- helped her and her mother move to the Coachella Valley in early 2011.
Armstrong and the girl smoked marijuana together and eventually began a physical relationship, Rodarte said.
Armstrong allegedly told a friend he touched the girl inappropriately and had feelings for her. The friend told his mother-in-law, who knew the girl's mother, and both the mother and older sister confronted him.
Once he was arrested, he admitted having inappropriate contact with his fiancee, Rodarte said in her closing argument Thursday.
In three recorded phone calls, the girl was "very focused, very angry and very upset" and Armstrong didn't tell the girl they should stop talking or she was wrong, Rodarte said. He repeatedly said he loved her and that they should talk, the prosecutor said.
"You're being confronted at that point by a 15-year-old kid about this ... this is bait, this is a means to continue a conversation with this minor, this is stoking the fire," Rodarte said.
She said the girl was a "sophisticated young woman" who could have found a boyfriend in high school, and became attached to Armstrong because "he led her up to this point. She was willing, it happened."
Rodarte said in her opening statement last week that, when confronted by the girl's mother and sister, Armstrong and the girl both denied there was anything between them. They continued to see each other until the girl's mother found a Skype message she sent a friend after her older sister announced she was pregnant with Armstrong's child.
The girl allegedly confessed that she had a relationship with Armstrong, and law enforcement started investigating, Rodarte said.
Defense attorney Peter Cabrera said the girl -- who said on the stand last week that she didn't want to testify and couldn't remember her testimony in a previous hearing -- "could have pointed to this man's face and said, 'You know you had sex with me' ... She didn't."
The transcript of her testimony at the preliminary hearing was read to the jury during the trial.
Cabrera said the girl misunderstood Armstrong's kindness when she moved to the desert. Eventually her sister became pregnant with Armstrong's child, they got engaged "and all of a sudden all hell breaks loose," Cabrera said in his closing argument.
He said that in her preliminary hearing testimony, the girl said she was jealous of their happiness.
"The story she gave got out of control and she didn't have a way out, and she just thought, 'I won't testify, what are they going to do to me?' " Cabrera said.
He said the prosecution had no evidence of inappropriate photos and text messages between Armstrong and the girl, and there was no collaboration for her story. He said she lied to her mother, sister, a priest and the woman who did her sexual assault exam.
"What's the true story? This woman has said everything to everyone, and yet the prosecution would have you convict Mr. Armstrong on that kind of evidence?" Cabrera said. "... The only thing you heard was the prosecution asking you to speculate, and innuendo."
He said that in the recorded calls, Armstrong never admitted having sex with the girl. And there was no evidence of their bodily fluids on a couch where they allegedly had sex, he said.
Armstrong -- who later married the girl's sister -- had worked as a substitute teacher and part-time coach for the Desert Sands Unified School District, according to authorities. Rodarte said he didn't have a job when he knew the girl.
Sheriff's Investigator Michael Gaunt, in a declaration in support of an arrest warrant, said the girl told him in August 2011 that she'd had a relationship with Armstrong in March and April of that year.
Armstrong, who is free on a $30,000 bond, was arrested in August 2011.
Thee jury continues deliberations on Friday.
– City News Service.