MONCRIEF HAS FRIEND ON JURY
ACQUITTED OF GIRL'S ASSAULT, MODESTO MAN FACES NEW CHARGE

Published June 17, 2000 by Michael G. Mooney, Bee Staff Writer

Three weeks ago, a Stanislaus County jury acquitted Trevor Allen Moncrief of attempted murder, kidnapping, torture and assault in an April 1998 attack in which a young girl was choked and left for dead in an apartment complex trash bin.

Now, the foreman of the jury that declared Moncrief not guilty wants the district attorney to drop a new felony charge against the 22-year-old Modesto man -- and has even offered to pay Moncrief's legal fees.

Jury foreman David L. Messinger Jr. said that after last month's verdict, he waited outside the courthouse to wish Moncrief well.

While waiting, Moncrief's mother, Thais, approached him and explained that her son still was being held because he faced a battery charge from an incident that occurred in jail while he was awaiting trial.

Curious, Messinger began to ask questions and said he now believes Moncrief -- whose acquittal came after he had spent two years behind bars -- is being treated unfairly.

Messinger said he has sent a letter to Deputy District Attorney Linda McFadden that reads in part:

"Mr. Moncrief has been through enough. I implore you as a concerned citizen . . . please drop all charges levied against Mr. Moncrief. I believe he has spent more time than he ever should have."

When asked Friday why he took the action, Messinger said, "My father has told me on several occasions, "All it takes for wrong to prosper is for good people to do nothing.' I guess that is my answer."

Moncrief was acquitted in the 1998 assault of then-7-year-old Fatima Khan. Moncrief lived at the same north Modesto apartment complex.

The girl first said a woman had choked her. She later changed her story and blamed Moncrief. The jury was not convinced and declared him not guilty.

But the verdict did not end Moncrief's legal problems.

In late April, just days before his attempted murder trial was scheduled to begin, Moncrief scuffled with deputies at the county jail. Moncrief's attorney, Robert Forkner, said deputies were trying to force Moncrief to move into a cell next to the one he had occupied for nearly two years.

The toilet in the adjoining cell was backed up, Forker said.

"It was filled with urine and feces," he said. "The inmate who had been kept in there had rubbed his own feces over the walls."

That, said Forkner, is why Moncrief resisted the move.

"My client adamantly denies the charge against him (felony battery on a custodial officer)," Forkner continued. "They (members of the district attorney's office) are just a bunch of sore losers."

Not so, said McFadden, who prosecuted Moncrief for the attack on the girl.

McFadden denied that she or anyone else in her office is seeking retribution. The battery charge against Moncrief was filed May 2, she said, well before Moncrief's trial began May 10.

"This charge was pending before we ever knew what a jury might do," McFadden said. "This is not about anyone trying to get revenge. We have enough work to keep us busy. We only prosecute people who we believe are guilty of the charges."

McFadden declined to discuss the evidence against Moncrief until next month's preliminary hearing. That hearing had been scheduled to begin Friday, but was delayed when Forkner told Superior Court Judge John G. Whiteside that he was replacing Deputy Public Defender Gary Smith.

Forkner, who defended Moncrief in the previous trial, told Whiteside he agreed to take the case after talking with Messinger, but said he will not take any money from the former juror. Forkner said he also was persuaded by Messinger's letter sent to McFadden and her supervisor, Assistant District Attorney Birgit Fladager.

McFadden said Friday she had not seen the letter.

Messinger provided The Bee a copy of it. In it, Messinger said Moncrief is looking for work and trying to rebuild his relationship with his family.

"He has started making a real life for himself. Please, let him be," Messinger said in the letter. "Let his time served for a crime that he has been acquitted of be enough. Let it come to an end. I have the sincerest belief you will never see the name of Trevor Allen Moncrief in the legal system again."