Prosecutor Asks Jury to Convict Pianist of Molesting Boys

The 50-year-old man, a popular ragtime pianist, is on trial for allegedly molesting two 12-year-old boys in Berkeley and Oakland five years ago.

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    Frederick Hodges' lawyer admitted that Hodges touched both boys but not in a sexual way.

    A prosecutor asked jurors Wednesday to convict a prominent and popular local ragtime pianist of seven felony counts for allegedly molesting two 12-year-old boys in Berkeley and Oakland five years ago.

    Alameda County Deputy District Attorney Jimmie Wilson said he believes there is sufficient evidence to convict Frederick Hodges, 50, of five counts of committing lewd acts with a child under the age of 14, one count of oral copulation with a child under 14 and one count of possession of child pornography.

    In his closing argument in Hodges' trial, Wilson said Hodges should also be convicted of molesting multiple victims, which could lead to a term of life in state prison if he's convicted.

    But Hodges' lawyer, Patrick Clancy, told jurors that Hodges should be found not guilty of all charges against him because the case against him is weak and is based on interviews of the alleged victims in which he believes a police investigator coerced them to make incriminating statements about Hodges.

    Clancy admitted that Hodges touched both boys but not in a sexual way. He said Hodges "had no sexual intent" and "what he did is not a crime."

    Hodges' website says he is "hailed by the press as one of the best ragtime pianists in the world" and "is sought after by today's foremost orchestras, festivals, conductors and collaborative musicians."

    The website says Hodges is a native of California who earned a doctorate in history from Oxford in 2001 and has had a steady career playing solo piano for society parties and holding regular engagements at San Francisco establishments such as L'Etoile in the Huntington Hotel, Masons in the Fairmont Hotel and the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

    About 35 of Hodges' supporters came to the closing arguments in his trial today and a similar number has attended his entire trial.

    According to Wilson, most of Hodges' supporters are from the Art Deco Society of California, which is based in San Francisco and seeks to increase public awareness of the Art Deco era through preserving and promoting its art, music, architecture and design.

    Hodges, who was dressed in gray pants, a blue blazer and a tie today, parts his blonde hair in the middle in the style of the 1920s. He's free on bail of more than $1 million, according to Wilson.

    Wilson said Oakland police began investigating Hodges in 2009 when a boy told authorities that Hodges had molested him two years earlier, in 2007.

    The boy had told his girlfriend that his first sexual experience had been with Hodges and she said he needed to talk to his parents and eventually he told his parents and police what happened, according to Wilson.

    Oakland police Officer Michael Troupe conducted an investigation and found evidence that Hodges had also molested a second boy during the same time period in 2007, Wilson said.

    The prosecutor said Hodges didn't touch the second alleged victim in a sexual manner but Hodges is still charged with lewd and lascivious conduct because authorities believe he touched the boy with the intent to become sexually aroused.

    Wilson said Hodges is accused of more directly touching and interacting sexually with the first alleged victim who came forward.

    The alleged incidents occurred in homes where Hodges lived in Berkeley and Oakland as well as at a home in Walnut Creek where Hodges was house-sitting, Wilson said.

    The parents of the alleged victims encouraged the boys to spend time with Hodges because they thought he would be a good mentor, he said.

    One of the boys took piano lessons from Hodges and dressed in clothes from the Art Deco era similar to the clothes that Hodges wears.

    Hodges was arrested by Oakland police in the spring of 2010 but was released on bail later that year. He's continuing to perform while he's out on bail, according to his website.

    In his hard-hitting argument, Clancy alleged that Troupe had "an agenda" to browbeat the first alleged victim into making incriminating statements against Hodges.

    Clancy said, "This is mental child abuse" and said Troupe "should be fired" for techniques such as asking leading questions.

    Clancy also said the first alleged victim "is a disturbed young man" with "serious psychological problems" and comes from "a messed-up family."

    In addition, Clancy said he believes that the boy was influenced by a family friend whom he called "a rumormonger" for spreading unfounded gossip that Hodges had had sexual encounters with other boys.

    Jurors will begin deliberating Hodges' fate Thursday morning.