Two well-known residents of Mammoth Lakes — one a doctor and school board member, the other a ski instructor and member of a respected family there — are facing charges that they had an ongoing, sometimes sexual relationship with a Santa Barbara County teenager over an almost two-year span. The two — 46-year-old Dr. Andrew Bourne and 48-year-old Joseph Walker — pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday, and Tuesday morning a judge reduced their bail from $1 million each to $750,000. The amount is considerably more than the men’s defense attorneys requested.
In asking Judge George Eskin to keep the bail at the original $1 million, Senior Deputy District Attorney Mary Barron told the judge to consider the seriousness of the alleged crimes. She said the two men “nurtured” relationships with the girl in clandestine meetings, with Walker even meeting the girl at her school on one occasion. The girl has shown a “continuous expression of affection” for the men, Barron said, in particular for Bourne. The victim, Barron said, was extremely vulnerable and “appears to have been essentially brainwashed and groomed by two grown men.”
Barron said she anticipates filing additional charges against each man. As they currently sit, Walker is charged with six counts of unlawful contact with a child with intent to commit a sexual crime and one count of a lewd act upon a child, while Bourne is charged with seven counts of unlawful contact with a child with intent to commit a sexual crime and one count of lewd act upon a child.
Eskin, in issuing arrest warrants for Walker and Bourne, had reviewed much of the correspondence between the two men and the girl. The search and arrest warrants related to the case were sealed, according to court staff, and unavailable to review. According to police, in excess of a thousand emails between the defendants and the alleged victim were cited to secure the warrants, and the investigation had been going since September. It isn’t known what, if any, connection either man has to Santa Barbara. Walker lived here for a time, but both men’s permanent homes are in Mammoth.
The two, in asking for a reduced bail, presented a mountain of supportive statements and letters. Eskin noted those on behalf of Walker, saying the writers were “strong in their commitment in their belief of Mr. Walker.” One person in particular said the charges “seem to describe a person other than the man I know.” But while the men both enjoyed a certain stature in their community, Barron said, they “both had alter egos and flew under the radar.”
Walker, Barron alleged in court, expressed to Detective Jaycee Hunter that once the teen turned 18, he would want to continue a relationship with her. Barron also said both defendants had international connections and could attempt to flee, perhaps even trying to take the alleged victim — now 16 — with them.
Defense attorney Sam Eaton said Walker was living with his parents, earning $500 a month teaching ski lessons. A lot of the prosecution’s claims, he said, are “innuendo rather than real fact.” The prosecution pointed out Walker was teaching a group of minors, Eaton noted, while in reality it was a group of 20 boys and only four females, one of whom was his daughter. The family (Walker’s parents were present in the courtroom) would be posting the bail, he noted, thus torpedoing his chances of skipping out of town.
The men’s actions were not forcible or violent, Eaton said, but based on consensual conduct. “He’s responsible because he’s an adult,” Eaton said, “whether we like it or not.” Eskin replied, “We don’t.” (clarification: Eaton was pointing out that it must be acknowledged, “whether we like it or not,” that any sex was consensual. But he’s an adult so he’s responsible.)
Ron Bamieh, attorney for Bourne, called the amount of bail “extraordinarily exorbitant.” He noted the doctor has done “extraordinary things to help others,” and he was not a flight risk. Law enforcement has their passports, he said.
If the two men do post bail, they can have no contact with the witnesses or the minor, no contact with unrelated minors, and would be subject to electronic monitoring. The two men will be back in court on January 19, and their preliminary hearing is tentatively set for January 25.