Ellie Nesler, convicted of manslaughter in the courtroom shooting of her son’s alleged molester, claims that psychiatrists covered up for a state senator who molested her years ago.
Nesler did not name her alleged molester in court, but state Sen. Patrick Johnston issued a statement Wednesday in response to the accusation. He denied the allegation but acknowledged he had been Nesler’s probation officer when she was a teen-ager.
Nesler blurted out the accusation Wednesday during the sanity phase of her trial. The defense claims the 41-year-old Sonora woman was insane at the time of the shooting.
The prosecutor, Jo Graves, was cross-examining a defense witness, a psychiatrist whose report noted that Nesler claimed she had been molested by her probation officer when she was 14.
Graves asked why other psychiatrists who interviewed Nesler did not mention the alleged abuse. Nesler’s lawyer objected to the question, but Nesler shouted, “That’s because he’s a state senator.”
Visibly upset, Nesler turned away from jurors, and Tuolumne County Superior Court Judge William G. Polley told her to remain quiet.
One of her lawyers, Donald Segerstrom, said that Nesler spoke “in a moment of anger.” The defense also said Nesler may have reported the alleged incident but that other psychiatrists left it out of their reports.
Nesler was convicted last month of voluntary manslaughter for shooting Mark Driver, 35, on April 2. The shooting occurred in a Jamestown courtroom during a hearing to decide if Driver should stand trial for allegedly abusing Nesler’s son.
Jurors now must decide if Nesler was sane at the time. If found sane, Nesler could serve up to 16 years in prison; if found insane, she would be sent to a mental institution for at least six months.