Walker pleads guilty to five of 21 child sex charges

Mammoth Lakes resident Joseph Walker pleaded guilty to five felony counts of illegal sexual activity with a minor on  Friday, March 9 in a Santa Barbara court, waiving his right to a trial and almost ensuring he serves time in state prison.

The plea came more than two months after Walker was arrested in Mammoth Lakes on suspicion of illegal communication with a minor with the intent to facilitate sex. Former Mammoth Hospital vascular surgeon Dr. Andrew Bourne was arrested at the same time, on Jan. 4, on suspicion of the same crime of illegal communication with a child with the intent to facilitate sex.

Walker and Bourne were then charged by the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office (the minor lives in Santa Barbara County) with several counts of illegal communication with a minor with the intent to facilitate sex and Walker was also changed with one count of illegal sexual activity with a child.

More charges were expected to be filed against both Bourne and Walker, according to the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office at the time, but Bourne committed suicide in late January and the charges against Bourne were dropped. The charges against Walker were then amended.

Walker appeared in Santa Barbara court on March 9 at 10 a.m.. He pleaded guilty to four counts of “a lewd and lascivious act” with a child (Penal Code Section 288 (c) (1)) and one count of “illegal communication” with a minor with the intent to facilitate sexual activity (Penal Code 288.3), according to Santa Barbara Senior Deputy District Attorney Mary Barron. A total of 21 charges were filed against Walker.

“Joseph Walker pleaded guilty today to five felony counts … and [made] admissions as to the factual basis for the plea,” she said Friday. “He will be sentenced on June 1 in Department 12 of the Santa Barbara Superior Court to five years in state prison and must register for life as a sex offender.

The charges filed March 9 state that Walker began having sex with the minor when she was 14, beginning in December 2009 and continuing into 2011. Many of the crimes were committed in Mammoth Lakes, as well as in Santa Barbara. 

Authorities said earlier that they had recovered more than 1,000 emails implicating both men in a sexual relationship with the minor.

Barron said the charges that she had intended to file against Bourne, prior to his death would have included “at least six counts of lewd acts upon a child for acts of sexual intercourse with Jane Doe as well as a count of conspiracy to commit a lewd act on a child.”

Several of the charges she would have filed against Bourne are illustrated in Walker’s "Amended Felony Complaint" document sent to the Mammoth Times by Barron Friday, which includes quotes from the minor telling Walker (in "Overt Act 7"): "You told me I should be with (Bourne), you told me to."

Other quotes in the document show that Walker encouraged Bourne to have sex with the minor, saying, (in Overt Act 2): "Something like this happens once in a lifetime ... you need to take it to the next level... you need to get physical with Jane Doe." That same “Overt Act 2” states: “Bourne told Detective Hunter that part of the reason he became physical with Jane Doe was because the defendant encouraged him to.”

Barron said that because both Bourne and Walker were in contact with each other (hence the "conspiracy" charges noted above that she said she would have been filed against Bourne if he had not committed suicide), she was at liberty to release some information about these charges since some were included in the document containing the charges against Walker.

“The information is now part of the public record because there were aspects of Walker’s conduct that included … an aspect of the conspiracy that suggested [Bourne] did have physical contact with the victim,” she said.

Barron said that Walker’s sentencing hearing will allow both Walker and/or the minor to “prepare a statement” if they so wish, for the court. “They can do so, although they do not have to,” she said. She also said that June 1 court date could change for a variety of reasons including if the defense asks for a continuance, she said. Barron gave Walker credit for his plea, noting it would help protect the victim from more possible damage.

Walker’s plea agreement includes a condition that the maximum sentence he can receive is five years in state prison, if convicted. It states that he is not eligible to serve that time in a county prison. It also includes, among others, conditions that Walker must register as a sex offender, that he cannot possess a firearm as a convicted felon, and that he has waived the right to an appeal. It also includes a prohibition against revealing the name and identity of the minor.

At the end of the amended complaint, Walker acknowledges with his signature that he “engaged in a sexual relationship with Jane Doe” and outlines when and where some of the crimes occurred. At the end of this “Factual basis for plea,” he states, “I agree that the sentencing judge may consider the entire factual background of the case, including any stricken or uncharged accounts, (and) any changes the District Attorney agrees not to file, as well as the First Amended Felony Complaint.”

The case now goes to the probation officer, who will file a pre-sentencing report based on facts and interviews, then make a recommendation to the county as to the final sentencing, Barron said.