A Bay Area man is not guilty of charges related to rape and human trafficking, a Napa County jury has decided.
The case dates back to the September 2018 arrest of then-31-year-old Cecil Hutchinson III, who was arrested in a Napa Special Investigations Bureau sting operation.
Detectives found multiple text messages sent from his phone number while searching the cell phone of a Napa woman who prostituted herself out of her apartment in an unrelated case, court records show.
Detectives posed as a 16-year-old female and texted Hutchinson. They arranged to meet in Kennedy Park, where he was arrested.
Much of the case centered around Hutchinson’s text messages.
According to the police report following Hutchinson’s arrest, Hutchinson texted the undercover officer saying that he wasn’t the type to put his hands on her or force her to turn “tricks.” He also asked her how much money she had and said she would know what to do after they met in person, police wrote.
The Napa County District Attorney’s Office also brought charges related to the “recruiting/pandering-type messages” he sent to the Napa woman contacted during a different investigation, and charges related to the alleged rape of an Arizona woman in Solano County, in 2015, according to documents filed by the DA’s Office.
In the latter case, police say Hutchinson and the Arizona woman arranged to meet, apparently after he responded to her prostitution ad. She said he kept her belongings until she met a prostitution quota and raped her in a motel room. The DA’s Office paid and arranged for her flights and hotel accommodations in Napa so that she could testify during the trial, but prosecutors said she never deplaned.
Hutchinson’s attorney, Douglas Pharr, disputes prosecutors’ telling of the circumstances.
Hutchinson communicated with prostitutes in hopes to hook up with them without having to pay, Pharr said. He said messages sent to the Napa woman prostituting in her apartment went unreturned.
In the case of his Napa arrest, Pharr said undercover police texting him used a name that he was familiar with. Hutchinson, a music producer, thought he knew her from a music video they worked on together.
Undercover officers posing as the 16-year-old didn’t mention anything about age until minutes before police arrived, Pharr said, and Hutchinson said in response that they could still talk. Officers didn’t give Hutchinson the chance to cross a line before arresting him, he said.
Some of it came down to misinterpretation, Pharr said. When prompted by undercover officers asking Hutchinson whether he would force the fictitious 16-year-old to perform certain acts, he said he wouldn’t make her do any of those things, Pharr said. He meant that he wouldn’t force her to do anything in general, not that he wouldn’t force her to do certain things as her pimp, Pharr said.
Regarding the Solano County arrest, Pharr said his client believes the woman accused him of rape because she left a laptop in his car and wanted a way to get it back.
Pharr estimated the jury deliberated for six to eight hours and “ultimately agreed there wasn’t evidence to support these allegations,” he said. “They felt they had no choice but to find him not guilty.”
The jury found him not guilty earlier this month of five felony charges related to human trafficking, rape, pandering, attempted human trafficking of a minor and attempted pimping, court records show.
In an email, Napa County District Attorney Allison Haley wrote that prosecuting cases of exploitation is new to Napa juries and the jury’s conclusion was instructive.
“The Napa County District Attorney’s Office is undeterred: we will continue to prosecute these crimes and seek justice for victims,” she wrote.
In the future, the office will seek to add more expert opinions and consider the evidence as a jury without knowledge of human trafficking tactics and subculture might, Haley wrote.
Napa County Superior Court Judge Elia Ortiz presided over the trial.