A series of sex texts between a Colorado convicted rapist and a Sacramento woman found dead in an Auburn-area canyon was just some of the evidence presented during a parole hearing at the Sacramento County courthouse on Friday.
Investigators at the Placer County Sheriff’s Office have determined that Christopher Lawyer, 43, played no role in the woman’s death.
But Sacramento County Deputy District Attorney Robert Gold said the messages, which included naked photographs of the woman, were an example of Lawyer’s “repeated drive to seek out pornographic material.”
“This has been a longstanding issue that he’s had,” Gold said in court on Friday.
Lawyer moved to Carmichael in October through an interstate compact that allows parolees to cross state lines if they meet certain conditions, such as having a family member who can house them.
He was arrested Feb. 19 by investigators with a Sacramento sex offender enforcement team on suspicion of breaking a parole violation related to a 10 p.m. curfew. The incident is not referenced in any of the eight alleged parole violations filed against Lawyer, however.
As a part of his parole, Lawyer agreed that he would not view, keep or access any material showing naked or partially clothed adults or children, as well as any pornographic materials, case documents show.
He met the Sacramento woman, Yinshan “Michelle” Wong, while he was working at a local Bel Air grocery store. The two then exchanged text messages and met once at a Denny’s.
Text messages between the two retrieved by investigators after Lawyer’s arrest found two instances in which Lawyer asked Wong to send him sexually explicit photographs of herself on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29 last year, according to evidence presented in court on Friday.
“If you want to give this relationship a go then you need to send me brand new pictures of your beautiful body,” Lawyer texted Wong on Nov. 29, according to court documents. “I want 5 new nude pictures, OK?”
Gold also said Lawyer described Wong as having “some mental impairments" after her death to a person in his meditation group.
Lawyer’s attorney, David Fischer, argued the text messages between the two were consensual and a part of building their relationship.
“He’s allowed to have these relationships with people,” Fischer said.
Some of the other allegations brought forth by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office against Lawyer included failing to disclose his criminal history to two employers, bookmarking a video from a pornographic website on his iPad and phone and having a pornographic DVD in a drawer in his room.
Fischer said the DVD was not Lawyer’s and instead belonged to his aunt’s partner, who owned the Carmichael home where the three were staying. The DVD was a party favor from a bachelor party for the man’s son, Fischer said.
The room where Lawyer was staying also housed the man’s stamp collection and other items. It was possible that Lawyer didn’t even know of the DVD’s existence, which was found under a pile of other belongings after his arrest, Fischer said.
Lawyer drew the attention of Carmichael residents in February after The Sacramento Bee reported on his move there. Family members told The Bee that Wong was acting strangely and texting a convicted rapist from Colorado prior to her mysterious death.
Lawyer did not appear on the state's Megan's Law website at the time.
Lawyer was convicted in 2001 for raping a 23-year-old woman who was delivering newspapers at an apartment building. He held a handgun to her head and drove her to a different location before sexually assaulting her, court documents show.
He was released from prison in 2016 after what Fischer described as “a lot of work to get out.” Lawyer turned to Buddhism during his incarceration and taught career preparation classes to other inmates that focused on ethics and character, he told The Bee shortly after his arrest.
He said he had changed during his time behind bars.
Wong’s family did not return a request for comment Friday afternoon.
Lawyer’s aunt, whom Lawyer lived with, and his girlfriend both testified and attended the hearing.
Lawyer remained in Sacramento County Main Jail almost four months after his arrest. He is not eligible for bail.
Sacramento County Supervisor Susan Peters, who represents part of Carmichael, also attended the revocation hearing. About 80 angry residents met with her at a community meeting once news of Lawyer's move became public in February.
“It’s a very wonderful neighborhood and I would like it to stay that way,” Peters said outside of the courthouse.
Judge Curtis Fiorini is expected to announce his ruling in the case Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. If he rules against Lawyer, the decision would allow California officials to request Lawyer’s return to Colorado.