A jury has returned a split verdict against a man who acknowledged molesting a 9-year-old girl but blamed the incident on a sleep disorder.
A Contra Costa County jury found Ralph Dell of Pacheco not guilty on Wednesday of the more serious charge in the case, but convicted him of a lesser count of lewd acts on a child under 14. The Contra Costa Times reports that he faces a maximum of eight years in prison.
The more serious charge carried a maximum life sentence. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 5.
Dell's attorney, Ernesto Castillo, argued during the trial that his client suffered from "sleep sex," meaning he was asleep when he touched the girl at his Pacheco home in 2012. She was having a sleepover with his daughter.
Dell, who is in his mid-30s, said he had a sleep disorder that made him engage in sexual acts while asleep. He did not refute the girl's claim, but said he was suffering from the sleeping disorder known as parasomnia or sexsomnia, the newspaper reported.
Defendants in New Jersey and Canada have won acquittals using the "sleep sex" defense, but prosecutors in Contra Costa said this appears to be the county's first case.