The District Attorney’s office must have known it had a weak case against well-known Hollywood acting coach Cameron Thor from the very beginning. They threw the book at him anyway, charging him with 13 felony counts for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old eighth-grade girl back in 2009. Two of the charges carried life sentences.

But before the case went to trial, the DA offered Thor a deal – plead guilty to a misdemeanor and he’d be set free with only time-served – the 23 days he’d already spent in jail following his arrest last year. So in the course of little more than a year, the DA’s office had gone from seeking life in prison to being satisfied with just those 23 days.

Thor, however, turned the deal down. He’d have to register as a sex offender for five years, and besides, he insisted he was innocent. So he went to trial, and in August was convicted on one count of lewd conduct with a child. He is slated to be sentenced as early as this morning — it might get postponed again — facing up to 13 years in state prison. (UPDATE: Sentencing was postponed to January 8.)

Childhood sexual assault cases are inherently difficult to investigate and prosecute as the onus often falls on the victims to prove the attack many years later — something that is both hard for them, as physical evidence may no longer exist, and emotionally painful. In Thor’s case, there are clear instances of inappropriate and even illegal behavior that he has admitted to, from holding private lessons with an underage girl in his house without the presence of a parent or guardian; to driving alone with her to a secluded location where he used weed and blew smoke into her mouth in the backseat of his car; to offering her drugs and making graphic sexual advances in a phone conversation when she was 18.

He wasn’t charged with any of that, but a felony he was charged with – lewd conduct with a minor under the age of 14 — got him convicted. A two-month-long Deadline investigation of the case has turned up numerous instances in which due process was not followed at trial or during the investigation leading up to it.

I have been writing about the welfare of child actors since 1982, when the Twilight Zone helicopter crash cost the lives of two child actors. Show business is the only industry in America in which babies and infants can be legally employed, and as a labor reporter, I have always been on the lookout for the exploitation of children. I’ve rooted out imposters posing as studio teachers, uncovered that registered sex offenders were staying at an apartment complex famed for housing out-of-town child actors. I’ve covered numerous trials, gavel-to-gavel, and found that juries usually get it right. But in this case, my investigation has led me to conclude that this one might not have, even though I also accept that the alleged victim believes that she is telling the truth.

Jordyn LadellI’m not saying Thor is innocent – only he and the alleged victim know that for sure. But juries do not determine innocence; their only task is to determine if the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, a he-said she-thinks-she-remembers affair where there is literally no proof that an assault even occurred, a case could be made that Thor may have been wrongly convicted. Consider: no witnesses and no physical evidence was ever presented at trial; no confession was made by a defendant who had no prior history of predatory behavior; and no one else has since come forward with similar claims. The entire case hung on the testimony of the alleged victim, Jordyn Ladell, now 20, and much of it depended on her “recovered memory” of an incident that she says she “blocked out,” but now remembers after “lots of therapy.” Her version of events changed multiple times.

The use of uncorroborated “recovered memory” in sex abuse trials has long been discredited. As a report by the American Psychological Association noted, “Experienced clinical psychologists state that the phenomenon of a recovered memory is rare. One experienced practitioner reported having a recovered memory arise only once in 20 years of practice.” A policy statement by the American Medical Association states that “few cases in which adults make accusations of childhood sexual abuse based on recovered memories can be proved or disproved and it is not yet known how to distinguish true memories from imagined events in these cases…The AMA considers recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse to be of uncertain authenticity, which should be subject to external verification. The use of recovered memories is fraught with problems of potential misapplication.”

In this case, there were no “external verifications.”

THE INCIDENT

Cameron Thor Jurassic ParkAs an actor, Thor had never been a big star. He’d had small but prominent roles in Jurassic Park, A Few Good Men and Clear And Present Danger, but was best known as a respected acting coach whose students have included Madonna, Courtney Cox, Cameron Diaz, Helen Hunt, Drew Carey and Faye Dunaway. Still, his arrest on June 3, 2014 made headlines, and the case gained national attention when, against the advice of the prosecutor, his accuser went public before the trial in lengthy and often contradictory interviews with The Hollywood Reporter and ABC’s Nightline.

Ladell, who had been one of Thor’s acting students, claims that he sexually assaulted her in the back seat of his car on a remote mountain road in Encinal Canyon on March 29, 2009, when she was 13. Four years later, however, in April 2013, she told a detective that she had no memory of a key moment leading up to the attack, when Thor allegedly forced her out of his car and made her stand there, naked and contemplating suicide, until she agreed to come back inside and give him “what he wanted” – oral sex. It was, she told the detective during a forensic interview, something that her father had told her that she’d told him some years earlier. But she had no independent recollection of it, and didn’t even remember telling him in the first place.

Ladell began her acting lessons with Thor in March 2009. She would ditch school and her mother would drive her to Thor’s house for lessons. Afterwards, she said, her mother would drive her back to school and she’d sneak back into class. During the first two lessons, she said, he made suggestive remarks and rubbed her thighs and shoulders, but she didn’t say anything to her parents. At the end of the second lesson, she said, he hugged her and told her that she’d made him “hard.”

The third lesson was held in a park in the San Fernando Valley on March 29, 2009. Afterwards, he drove her into the Santa Monica Mountains, where Ladell claims he sexually assaulted her in the back seat of his car. It would be nearly two years before she would tell her parents, and two more before she would go to the police.

On April 29, 2013, she sat down with a female detective at the Stuart House – a rape counseling center in Santa Monica – for what’s known as a forensic interview. The then-17-year-old described how Thor had driven her to a remote location in Encinal Canyon and how they’d gotten into the back seat and smoked pot. He took a puff, she said, and then blew it into her mouth, making her cough violently. And then, she said, he sexually assaulted her. He put his fingers in her vagina, she said, and made her take her clothes off, and when she wouldn’t do what he wanted, he forced her out of the car naked and locked the doors. Alone and afraid, she told the detective, she agreed to come back into the car and give him oral sex.

But then, as the forensic interview was about to end, Ladell made a startling admission.

“I’ll just tell you one more thing.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Um, what I told my dad, that I don’t remember telling him and what he told the detective was that he locked me out of the car naked and wouldn’t let me get back in the car until I did what he wanted to do because I wasn’t doing what he wanted. I don’t remember that, but that’s what my dad told me I told him.”

“You don’t have memory of telling your dad this?”

“I don’t have memory of it, but I remember talking to my dad. I just don’t remember exactly what I said. But that’s what…”

At this point, the detective interrupted her. “OK, thank you for letting me hear that. Ready to start our break time?” The detective closed the subject without inquiring whether other elements of Ladell’s story may have been prompted by her father’s memory of what she told him.

It would be the first of many red flags that might have given prosecutors pause about the validity of their case against Thor.

During the trial, the prosecutor, Deputy District Attorney Simone Shay, asked Ladell to testify about this incident as if she actually remembered it, without ever informing the jury that Ladell had told a detective 16 months earlier that she didn’t remember it at all. Shay knew that Ladell told that to the detective, because a recording and a transcript of her admission were exhibits at the trial. But Shay had Ladell testify about it as if it were not a recovered memory.

Shay, who declined to discuss the case, could argue that she believed Ladell had recovered her memory since that interview with the detective. Ladell would later claim as much during her cross-examination by Thor’s attorney, James Blatt, when she said it had come back to her after “lots of therapy.”

At trial, during her direct examination by Shay, Ladell described how Thor had taken her clothes off in the backseat of his car, groped her, and then forced her out of the car naked when she wouldn’t do what he wanted.

“I remember he was on top of me and kissing me, and had his hand on my vagina. And I was, like, pushed up into the corner of the car by the door, and he was leaning over me.”

“And what, if anything, do you remember happening after that?”

“I remember he told me to give him head after that, to give him a blow job.”

And when she refused, she said, “He told me to get out of the car.”

“And then what did you do after he said that?”

“I did. He opened the door and told me to get out, and he sat back down into the center, and I got out.”

“And what did you do at that point?”

“I remember I walked over to those rocks.”

Cameron Thor Crime SceneAt that point, Ladell pointed to a photograph of the area that had been presented as an exhibit.

“I looked down and I realized there was really nowhere for me to go. It was kind of a canyon. There was the mountain on one side, the cliff on the other side, and two long roads, so I walked back to the car.”

“You’re then standing outside. Are your shirts and your pants still off?”

“Yes.”

“You mentioned some rocks. With respect to the rocks, tell me again, what, if anything, did you do when you get out of the car and there’s rocks there? What did you do?”

“I stood on the rock, the bigger one. There was a bigger one and a small one, and I stood on the big one.”

“When you were there standing on that rock and looking, describe for us, what did you see when you were looking?”

“It wasn’t a cliff, but it was just a hill down. It was a pretty good drop. I remember I thought to myself if I jumped, I wouldn’t die. So it wouldn’t be worth jumping. I’d get hurt. And if I ran, he would get me. It was rocky and dead.”

“OK. “So at this point, you’re there, you’re standing on that rock, and you’re thinking about what to do. What is it that you actually decide to do?”

“I walked back to the car.” 

“OK. And what happens when you get back to the car?”

“I got back in the car.”

Ladell identified the area in the photograph and testified to her actions there, including getting out of the car and contemplating suicide on the hillside after telling detectives 16 months earlier that she didn’t really remember any of it. The facts appear to be based on her recovered memory.

“OK. And what happened after that?”

“I did what he wanted. He told me to give him head.”

Presumably, she had an independent memory of that – at least, she didn’t tell the detective otherwise.

“And when he said that to you, what, if anything, do you remember doing.”

“I did.”

“OK. And at that point in time, then, did your mouth make contact with his penis?

“Yes.”

“OK. And once that happened, did he say anything while that was happening?”

“I don’t remember.”

“And after that happened, what’s the next thing that you recall happening?”

“I just remember driving back home.”

And it was on that testimony, and on very little, if anything else, that Thor was convicted and could spend the next 13 years in state prison.

Ladell did not respond to a request for an interview, but her father, Dean Ladell, told Deadline that his daughter “is telling the truth,” but said that he is “not going to comment on anything to do with the trial, and I don’t think Jordyn will either.” What she’s been through, he said, “is tragic and it’s affected our family horribly.”

As to Deadline’s questions about the case, he said: “It’s not our motivation to convince people. Our motivation was to give Jordyn her day in court.” He did say, however, that “a lot of evidence” had been “excluded” from the trial “strategically.”

Which raises the question: Why, in a case with so little evidence, would a lot of it be excluded for any reason?

Later in the trial, during his cross-examination, Thor’s attorney, James Blatt, asked Ladell about what happened after Thor allegedly forced her out of the car. It was still all hearsay, but the defense was likely looking for ways to impeach her credibility.

“Weren’t you outside, naked?”

“Yeah, on a rock.”

“And you’re certain of that. Is that correct?”

“Yeah.”

“And you’ve never said anything different, have you, in reference to that, have you?”

“Not that I know of.”

Blatt reminded her of the forensic interview she’d given a detective 16 months earlier.

“At the very end of the interview, the interviewer asked you, ‘Is there anything else you want to talk about that you haven’t said?’ And do you remember you added something at that time about not knowing whether you were naked or not – that you didn’t remember?”

“That was two years ago. I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I’m sorry.”

Blatt then played a tape of that interview for the jury. It was the first time that the jury, and presumably the judge, would learn that a major portion of Ladell’s testimony had been prompted by something that her father had told her that that he said she had told him.

Blatt continued:

“In that statement, you indicated that you did not have a memory of being outside naked.”

“Yeah. I’ve indicated many times I blacked out and blocked out a lot of what had happened.”

“Alright. So, here you are in this interview, indicating that you told your father something that, now you don’t remember and, now your father tells you what happened. Isn’t that what you’re saying in this interview? Aren’t you saying here that, ‘Well, I don’t remember whether I was naked or not, but I told my father that I was naked. My father told me that I was naked, so that’s what I have been telling people?”

“Told her [the detective]. Not people. Just her.

“Right. So at the time you’re speaking to her, you don’t have a recollection of whether you were outside naked or not?”

“At that very day, no, I didn’t.”

“Well, why wouldn’t you have a recollection of that day, about being thrown outside without any clothes on?”

“I blocked it out.”

“And now it’s come back? Has it come back?”

“Yes. I’ve been in lots of therapy.”

Blatt says he is puzzled by the guilty verdict based solely on Ladell’s account of the events. “I don’t understand the verdict,” he told Deadline. “Sometimes jurors look at things differently than we do. I thought there was overwhelming reasonable doubt. But the jury has the power and the ability to look at things very differently than the defense or the prosecution, and they came to a different conclusion. I respect the jury and I respect the jury system. Sometimes juries make a decision and you can understanding it. But this is one of those rare cases where I’m deeply trouble by the verdict.”

It wasn’t the only time that Ladell was allowed to testify about things she didn’t actually remember. She had one more acting class with Thor after the alleged attack; she went to his house again, she said, because she didn’t want to tell her parents she’d been raped, and quitting might make them suspicious. Sometime later, she asked him for money. Asked Blatt on the stand:

“Did you ever mention that you were texting him to ask him for money? Did you ever mention that to anyone, that after this incident, you were texting him to ask him for money, and your mother requested that?”

“My mother told me that.”

“OK. So your mother tells you to call him to ask him for money?”

“No. I’m saying my mother told me that I did that. I’m not saying I remember. I’m saying my mother had told me that. But I don’t remember it, no.”

Once again, Ladell’s memory of an event was not her own, but one that had been prompted by one of her parents.  This type of hearsay, in which one of her parents told her about something she did or said, but about which she had no actual memory, raises questions about what other memories of the event may have been prompted by her parents or by her therapist.

There was more hearsay testimony allowed at trial. When the police first became involved two years after the alleged assault, Ladell told a policeman, who’d come to her 10th-grade class to question her, that nothing had happened.

“I just denied and told him nothing happened,” she testified in court. “I didn’t want anybody to know.”

The policeman had come to her school because her parents had only recently found out and mentioned the assault to a therapist.

“My parents told me this, because I wasn’t there,” she testified to no objection from Blatt. “My parents told her what happened. She looked at my parents and said, ‘Stop right there. I have to report this.’ And my parents got really upset and left, and she reported it.”

This was not only hearsay, but double-hearsay – she was not only telling the jury what her parents told the therapist, but what the therapist had told them. Ladell’s statement was allowed, and her parents were never called to the witness stand to corroborate it or anything else she said.

This failure to follow the normal rules of procedure extended all the way back to the way the case was investigated, including the fact that two sting operations designed to get Thor to confess were mishandled.

THE STING

Thor hadn’t seen Ladell in years, but when they got together at a Starbucks in Westlake Village, CA on March 11, 2014, she pretended she was meeting an old friend – just as Det. Nick Coulter had coached her. But this was not going to be a friendly chat over soy chai lattes; it was going to be a sting operation, designed to get him confess to raping her in the back seat of his car five years earlier.

She was 18 at this time and had already told the police about the alleged assault five years before. Because there was no physical evidence and no witnesses, they’d need a taped confession to play in court.

In legal parlance, the staged encounter is called a pretext meeting. It was secretly recorded, with Coulter, in plainclothes, sitting at a nearby table. It is undoubtedly awkward to ask a victim to relive a traumatic event like that with the man who perpetrated it. But Ladell not only didn’t get Thor to confess, she failed to even mention their alleged sexual encounter so that he could confirm or deny it. She never asked him about how he allegedly touched her breasts and put his fingers into her vagina, or about how he took her clothes off and made her give him oral sex. Even if he was guilty, Thor couldn’t confess because she never asked him about it.

Cameron Thor Jordan LydellInstead, they talked about school and her desire to go to college. They talked about music, and he talked about his separation from his wife. She told him about her shopping trips to New York, staying at the Trump Tower at Central Park and buying expensive clothes at Bergdorf Goodman on her father’s credit card. “Don’t tell me the price,” she laughed. “Just buy it.”

She talked about her six trips to Canada and going to bars and getting “wasted.” They talked about TV shows, and about how Showtime’s Shameless was her “absolute favorite show.”

Not all pretext calls or meetings elicit confessions. Sometimes, guilty parties deny they ever did anything wrong. In this case, however, Ladell never broached the subject. And by failing to even put the question to him, the detective and the prosecutor failed not only to collect evidence of guilt, but to uncover exculpating evidence that might clear a man wrongly accused.

At trial, Ladell testified that she didn’t ask him about the alleged sexual assault at Starbucks because she “never got the chance,” even though the recording of that conversation shows several potential opportunities for that. And besides, she said, “I was saying exactly what I was advised to say” by Coulter, who was not called to testify.

At Starbucks, Thor gave Ladell a chance to ask him about the time she says they had sex when he mentioned that he liked to ride his motorcycle on the same lonely road in the Santa Monica mountains he had taken her that day to smoke pot.

“You should jump on the back and go with me some time,” he said, telling her that the road through hills near his house “is one of the greatest motorcycle roads in the world.” She said:

“Didn’t we go up there one time?”

“Yeah. We went up their when I was trying to corrupt you?”

After his arrest, Thor admitted to the police he’d smoked pot with her that day in the back seat of his car. Her next response to him seems to indicate that she understood that that’s what he was referring to.

“Oh, my God. We got fucking high up there, didn’t we?”

“That was the first time I ever smoked weed. Oh, my God.”

“I’m so sorry.

“That was so funny.

“Ever want to do a line?”

“Oh, my…no. God, never on my life. That was so fun. Oh, my God. I remember that.”

“That’s that highway. Now, imagine…”

“We did some bad shit. We were bad. We were bad.”

And that’s the closest she got to even mentioning what had gone on in the back seat of his car. Just “we did some bad shit” – which could have just as easily been a reference to smoking marijuana. He continued the conversation:

“Yes, I realize. And in fact, that’s kind of why I stopped. I was like, wait a minute, I’m…”

She interrupted him before he could say what it was that he had stopped doing. Was it sex, or smoking pot with an underage girl?

“I know. You just stopped talking to me.”

“Well, because I didn’t want to get you in trouble because I realized despite how mature you are and how different you are than the average person, you were also at an age where we could get in real trouble, or I could get in real trouble.”

And that was it. At trial, Ladell testified Thor had confessed to her “under his breath.” If that was so, the recording didn’t pick it up. Like everything else in this case, the jury would just have to take her word for it.

THE ARREST

Cameron Thor NightlineWhen Thor was arrested on June 3, 2014, Ladell and her father were waiting outside his house, where her dad videotaped the arrest and can be heard calling him a “creepy piece of ****” as Thor was led away in handcuffs. A short time later, Thor was interrogated by L.A. County Sheriff’s detectives. At first, he said, he thought he was being charged with smoking pot with Ladell five years earlier, when she was 13. He was ashamed and remorseful, but freely admitted that he’d done it.

But that wasn’t what he was being charged with. They read him his rights and he waived his right to have an attorney present, and then the detectives got down to business.

“This is from an incident that happened maybe four years ago, five years ago,” Det. Coulter told him, “when Jordyn was 13 or 14, and you were giving her acting lessons…where she’s alleging that during that time that you guys had sexual intercourse together.”

“Oh, God. No…No. I’ll say that I don’t need an attorney to…” Thor stammered. “No. No. That never happened. Nothing like that, sir.”

At his trial, Thor never took the witness stand in his own defense. His attorney reasoned that without any physical evidence, no witnesses and no confession, no jury would ever find him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Blatt, since replaced by famed defense attorney Mark Geragos, declined to discuss his the specifics of the case, but did say that he is “deeply troubled by the verdict.”

While, on Blatt’s advice, Thor did not take the stand, a recording of his initial interrogation with the detectives was played at the trial. That tape – which gives his side of the story – can be heard here for the first time outside of court.

Playing good-cop bad-cop, the detectives told him the first thing they had to determine was whether he was a sexual predator or a “good person” who’d simply made a bad mistake. There were no reports that he’d ever done anything like this before – which they said suggested he wasn’t a sexual predator – so Coulter and Sgt. Al Garcia, in charge of the Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureauwanted him to confess he’d simply made a dumb mistake.

GARCIA: “What we have to start wondering now is, is Cameron a sexual predator or is he a good person that simply committed a mistake? OK? We’ve done our homework We’ve talked with people, and everyone says nothing but good things about you. So we know you’re a good person….Do we start wondering, ‘Did he start this business so he can have access to kids?’ But you know what? No one’s ever said anything. You don’t have any other reports; so we don’t think that’s the case.”

THOR: “You’re saying that she’s saying that I had sex with her?”

COULTER: “Yes.”

THOR: “Whoa. Not…not…I didn’t kiss her or touch her or do anything sexual at all with Jordyn. I did not do that.”

COULTER: “When we first went to see you in your house and we were putting you in the elevator, what you said actually struck me kind of funny when you were in there. You said, ‘Looks like I’m going to be needing to make some amends.’ ” 

THOR: “Can I explain?”

COULTER: “You can. Yeah. Speak freely.”

THOR: “I’m a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and one of the things we do is, when we make a mistake, we have to make amends…The thing that I regret is that when I was working with Jordyn, I smoked marijuana, and I smoked some marijuana while she was there. That’s what I was regretting. That’s what I want to make amends for…I felt bad about that, and that’s what I thought, you know, sitting in that cell, going, ‘Jesus, this is a really big deal for what I did’ – which was smoke weed.”

GARCIA: “So you admit you smoked weed with Jordyn?”

THOR: “Yes, sir. I did do that.”

Thor, however, was never charged with that. The detectives then turned to the time he smoked pot with her in his car in 2009, when he allegedly assaulted her.

COULTER: “So you guys were in the car. Where exactly were you when you smoked that marijuana?” 

THOR: “Mulholland Highway.”

GARCIA: “And what kind of car was it?”

THOR: “It was a Lexus. I’m trying to remember the model number – LS 460.”

GARCIA: “We knew that. OK, what year was that?”

The car, Thor said, was only a year old at the time, maybe less.

GARCIA: “We have a way of tracking down that car. If we go in there and what she tells us – you guys in the car, and you guys having sex in the back seat – we can…search for evidence. Are we going to find anything?”

THOR: “No.”

GARCIA: “Is there any reason we’re going to find any of your seminal fluid and her fluid?”

THOR: “No, sir. No sir.”

The car had been leased and was no longer in Thor’s possession, and there is no evidence in the court record they ever looked for it. The investigators never obtained a warrant to seize his computer or cell phone, either, which is customary in child abuse cases. Coulter, the lead investigator, was never called to the witness stand, and Garcia, although he testified briefly, was never asked by either side whether they ever found the car.

GARCIA: “Why should she hold a sin for so many years and all of a sudden report it?”

THOR: “I don’t know. I can’t say. I don’t know. I mean, there was that one thing that I’ve just told you about. That was it. Actually, it was so shocking to me that I even did that, that I spoke to my therapist and my sponsor about it. I said, ‘This is insane and crazy,’ and they were like, ‘Yes. And don’t…and stop.’ And that was why I cut it off. I stopped speaking to Jordyn after that because it was wrong what I had done. I had lost my sobriety in the process, and I didn’t want to do it anymore. I felt terrible.”

Neither his sponsor nor his therapist were call to testify.

GARCIA: “What happened in the car other than smoking weed? Was there some petting at least?”

THOR: “No. There was no…”

Coulter interrupted before he could finish.

COULTER: “Start from where you were that day, and go through where you were, how that day started off, how you ended up there, and then what happened after you left there.”

THOR: “I’m not sure how it was we got together,. I don’t recall whether she had come over to do some work or whether – I’m not sure how, but we…I think it was in the middle of the day, late afternoon, middle afternoon, something like that. And I was like, ‘Let’s go smoke a joint up on the canyon on the highway and look over the canyon.’ And she was like, ‘Sure.’ So we went up and drove the car up to Mulholland, which is near where I lived, pulled over to the side, sat in the back seat, smoked the pot. She didn’t like it very much, like coughing and stuff. That was kind of when it hit me that this was not good. And at that point it became immediately unenjoyable, and I was sort of like, ‘OK. Let’s go.’ ” 

The whole thing, he said, lasted 10 minutes. Ladell said it lasted two hours.

Garcia asked him why he got into the back seat to smoke pot with her. “Why couldn’t you do that in the front seat?” It was a good question, because getting into the back seat of a car with a girl on a scenic turnout carries a certain sexual connotation. And it makes viewing the scenery – the reason he said he took her there – all the more difficult. He didn’t have a good answer, and that, as much as anything else, may have swayed the jurors, who did not stick around after the trial to answer questions.

“I don’t remember why,” Thor answered. “It was sort of easier – like you got the center console…But if you sit there in the highway, especially where we were, cars drive by all the time. If you’re sitting in the front seat, it’s really easy for anyone that’s driving by to look in the front seat and see what’s going on…my windows on my car are slightly tinted, but we sat in the back seat.” Then he added, “Primarily for comfort.”

In her opening remarks, Deputy DA Simone Shay had asked the jury to use its “common sense” in weighing the evidence and testimony. This business about him getting into the back seat with the girl to smoke pot, perhaps more than anything else, didn’t pass the common-sense test. It just doesn’t sound right. But it’s not proof, and certainly not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he assaulted her. The fact that he admitted it, when he could have denied it like he did everything else she said about the alleged assault, was that an indication of his truthfulness? The jury didn’t believe him.

Questioned by the detectives, Thor was adamant he never touched her in the back seat of his car that day.

“I’ll take a polygraph,” he told them. “You guys can scratch my skin. You can search my apartment. You can test my semen. You can check the car. There was not contact. None…I’m fucking innocent of this thing. I’m not a predator. I didn’t ever touch Jordyn. Not at all. Not even once.

“Dude, I don’t fuck kids. I didn’t do that,” he told them. “I did not touch, kiss, molest, have sexual relations, intercourse – anything like that with that girl ever.”

“No way,” he insisted. “Sir, I have never, ever, ever…I have no interest in anyone that’s younger.”

That, it turns out, was not exactly true, based on what Thor told Ladell the second time she wore a listening device. After the failed pretext meeting at Starbucks, Deputy DA Shay told Coulter they’d have to try again, so he and Ladell arranged a pretext phone call. And again, Coulter would be secretly taping it; it came shortly before his arrest. Said Thor on the call:

“I’ve always had this mad desire to fuck you.”

“Like what?”

“I just want to twist you around like a little spider monkey and watch you cum. That is what I would like to do.”

She was 18 by then and of legal age, but from this, the jury may have concluded he’d been thinking about having sex with her for a long time, even when she was still a minor. While certainly a shocking thing for a jury to hear Thor say, fantasizing about it is not illegal, and it wasn’t a confession.

As before, they talked about the time they smoked pot together. Said Ladell:

“Did you know the first time I smoked was with you?”

“I feel terrible.”

“Why do you feel terrible?”

“I’m a terrible corrupting influence.”

“No. We had so much fun that day. We did, like, so much stuff.”

They talked about movies and shopping again, and about her travels to Canada again, and about his separation from his wife again – he was in the process of moving out of the house – and he tried to impress her with some scientific theory he’d been reading about that day. Ladell had reached Thor on his cell phone while he was returning home from getting take-out, which was getting cold as they talked while he sat in his new car in his driveway. After a while, he said he had to go. She said:

“Well, I’ve been in your car before.

“This one’s different.

“I liked your old car. We had fun in your old car.”

“Yeah, that was a cool car. This is a really…I like this car a lot. This is a fast car.”

“Sex in your car?”

“Oh, I know, I said this is a fast car, but if you thought I said sex in this car, that’s what I meant.”

“Well, I want to do that again. I mean, we did that…”

“Sex in cars is awesome.

“Sex in cars is awesome. Totally remember that.”

“Yep.”

“Oh, my God. The last time I was in your car I was like, what, 13, 14?”

“Yes.”

“13. Oh, my God. And I’m an adult now. We could have so much fun now.”

“You’re fully grown. Well…”

“Can you imagine what I am like now that I’m 18 if I was 13 before?”

“I can imagine. I can imagine you stretched out.”

“I’m sure you can imagine me stretched out.”

“I can.”

“Yeah, so I think you need to get this move over with and I think you need to take me back to where you took me before.”

“OK. Oh, man, that’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.”

“It’s a challenge you’re willing to accept?”

“Yes.”

“I just have one concern, OK?”

“What’s that?”

“You can’t do what you did last time and just not talk to me again.”

“OK.”

“I was 13. You can’t just not talk to me anymore. You have to continue talking to me.”

“And I can, because you’re 18.”

“And, yeah, well, of course you couldn’t continue to talk to me back then. We were bad and I was just 13. Now I’m 18 and it’s OK.”

“Good.”

“It was like my first time with, like, everything back then.”

“Wow.”

“Imagine, like – can you imagine that and just, like, how bad, like…”

“How bad, like what?”

“Just that I think we should just go back and do it again, and like I think it would be just so much better now.”

And that was it. They promised to get together soon and said their good-byes. He was arrested a few days later. They’d talked about having sex in the future, but she still never raised the issue of the time they’d allegedly had sex before in the back seat of his car, not enough for him to dismiss or corroborate it. For all he or the jury knew, all of her talk about their being “bad” in his car could have been referring to the time they smoked pot there. Thor not only didn’t confess; the question of his alleged assault never came up.

THE AFTERMATH

“In over 40 years of practice, this is one of the worst investigations I have ever seen,” Blatt told Shay in a letter dated May 22, 2015, before all but one of the charges against Thor were dropped. Complaining that an “inappropriate relationship” had developed between the investigator and the alleged victim and her family, Blatt told the prosecutor Coulter appeared more intent on protecting Ladell than investigating the case.

“It is troubling that Jordyn’s first two interviews with law enforcement were not recorded,” Blatt told Shay. “It is even more troubling that Det. Coulter failed to write any reports of his meetings with Jordyn.”

During the investigation, Ladell returned to the scene of the alleged crime with Coulter, but Blatt said he didn’t learn of this until the preliminary hearing this past January. “As far as we know,” Blatt told the prosecutor, “this drive was not audio or video recorded and we have no written report. It has become obvious that he has no experience in these types of cases, and is inappropriately emotionally attached to Jordyn and her family.”

Coulter, once a detective with the elite Special Victims Bureau, has since been reassigned to one of the Sheriff’s department’s least-glamorous outposts – bailiff at the Airport Courthouse at LAX. His supervisor told Deadline that the transfer was requested by Coulter, who declined to be interviewed for this story.