City Fights Molester's Suit Seeking Return of Photos of His Victims

Times Staff Writer

Newport Beach officials are opposing a convicted child molester's legal bid to force the return of photographs of his young male victims, arguing that the victims would face a "constant threat of blackmail" and that the pictures could be used to lure other victims.

Craig Darrell Sinclair, now serving 20 years in the state prison at Vacaville, made the unusual request for the return of three photo albums containing pictures of at least 12 victims in a lawsuit filed Feb. 2 in Orange County Superior Court.

11 Molestation Counts

Sinclair, who pleaded guilty to 11 counts of molesting 11- to 17-year-old boys in 1983, also sought $757 in damages for other personal belongings seized by Newport Beach police during their investigation.

Releasing the albums "could rekindle the same urges that have caused (Sinclair) to molest children over many, many years" and could interfere with efforts to rehabilitate the prisoner, Newport Beach lawyers responded.

For a child molester, photographs of victims are like firearms used to commit a crime, which under state law may not be returned to the criminal, the city has argued.

While possession of the albums is not illegal, "in the hands of (Sinclair) it is much more dangerous," according to city lawyers. "Returning any of these items would be akin to returning a six-pack of beer, found in the car, to a drunk driver."

Newport Beach City Atty. Robert H. Burnham said such a request from a prison inmate is unique.

"I've been involved in cases where an individual might want a weapon returned, but never where an individual in prison has asked for this type of thing," Burnham said.

Sinclair has "a compulsive attraction to and sexual fixation on children," according to a sworn statement by Newport Beach Police Detective Lavonne Campbell, the chief investigator in the case against Sinclair.

Reliving Fantasies

Photographs are used by pedophiles to relive past fantasies and encounters with victims, and are "revered with devotion" by the molester, Campbell said in the statement.

Burnham also argued that photo albums are often used by child molesters to establish a "bond of trust" with potential victims. As such, Burnham argued, the album is "an instrument of a criminal act" in the same way as a gun that is used by a robber.

"One of the techniques they (molesters) use is to show potential victims pictures of other kids in pleasant surroundings to establish that the individual seeking the sexual relation is really truly interested in their welfare," Burnham said. "It's, 'Look, see what fun this is?' "

Sinclair should not be allowed the chance of using the photos to molest children after he is released from prison, according to the city.

A hearing is scheduled in the case next month.

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