Riverside County prosecutors Friday dropped all sexual assault charges against a convicted rapist who had been accused of repeatedly molesting two sisters in the Murrieta area, extracting a plea from him instead on a lesser count and saying the case could not go forward based on doubts about the strength of the evidence.
Michael James Camilleri, 42, of Winchester was arrested in March following a sheriff’s investigation that led to the two alleged victims, neither of whom were identified, making allegations against the ex-convict.
Camilleri was ultimately charged with three counts of rape, 11 counts of lewd acts on a child and one count of violating sex registrant parole terms, with numerous sentence-enhancing allegations of preying on multiple victims.
Moments after Camilleri’s case went before Superior Court Judge John Davis for a preliminary hearing at the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta Friday morning, the prosecution and defense announced that a plea agreement had been reached, under which Camilleri admitted a felony charge of failure to comply with convicted sex offender registration terms.
All other counts were dismissed at the request of the District Attorney’s Office.
Davis sentenced Camilleri to a year in county jail and three years probation.
“We determined that we did not believe we would be able to prove the dismissed counts beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury,” District Attorney’s Office Public Information Officer John Hall told City News Service.
Hall declined to provide specifics, including whether the victims had changed their stories. Defense attorney Suzanne Ferguson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sheriff’s officials said in March that a woman called deputies alleging that her ex-boyfriend — Camilleri — had molested her pre-teen daughter on several occasions in the preceding two years.
The woman, who was not identified, alleged that the assaults occurred while she resided in the 31000 block of Jan Steen Court in French Valley.
While detectives were gathering information, the victim’s sister — now 23 years old — alleged that she, too, had been sexually assaulted by the defendant during encounters with him at a Murrieta residence several years earlier, according to the sheriff’s department.
Detectives found and interviewed the convicted felon in Colton, where he was taken into custody without a struggle.
According to court records, Camilleri has a 1997 conviction for sexual assault on a minor, for which he served two years in state prison and was ordered to register as a sex offender.
Under California Penal Code section 290, sex registrants are required to keep a current address on file with law enforcement and notify authorities whenever they relocate. They’re also generally prohibited from loitering where children gather and working in jobs that would involve routine contact with minors.