GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The trial of Gustavo Flores-Rosario of Carbondale, accused of sexually assaulting two young girls about a decade ago, begin late Monday after nearly two days were spent picking a jury for the case.
Flores-Rosario, 54, is alleged to have inappropriately touched one of the girls, who was 9 years old at the time but is 18 now, one time only, but also to have engaged in the same behavior with a friend of the first girl, but younger by three or four years, at some later date, according to testimony before District Judge Daniel Petre and a jury of five women and nine men (including alternates).
The girls and Rosario all lived near one another in the same neighborhood in Carbondale, and all were known to each other before the alleged assaults.
Rosario faces six counts of sexual assault on a child age 15 or less, a class three felony, and attempted sexual intercourse involving the use of intimidation to “overcome the victim’s will,” a class five felony, according to court documents.
If convicted on all counts, and sentenced to serve prison terms consecutively, Rosario could be facing up to 63 years in prison — 12 years apiece for five class-three felony counts, and three years for the class five count.
The older of the two alleged victims, whose name is withheld due to her age at the time of the incidents in question and the sensitivity of the issues involved, testified on Monday that she told her mother about the assault a year after it allegedly happened, and that her mother did not believe the alleged assailant would do such a thing. She testified she also told at least one counselor at one of her schools, also without generating an investigation.
It was not until she was attending Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs, at the beginning of 2013 that the girl told one of her teachers, Sonja Linman, who was able to get authorities to investigate the matter, the young woman testified.
In his opening statement, prosecutor Steve Mallory told the jury, “This case is about strength, the strength to talk about sexual relations in the open,” despite living in a tight-knit neighborhood in Carbondale, still a small town where the lives of neighbors and friends can become the subject of whispered rumor and innuendo.
Mallory also extolled the strength of the young woman to come forward and tell the truth about a man who was well-liked in her neighborhood, and who she still refers to by his first name, and the strength to overcome skepticism and disbelief on the part of her elders and the authorities.
But defense attorney Bill Schubert, taking over when Mallory finished, immediately began attacking the older alleged victim’s credibility, questioning how she could possibly have a clear memory of events that happened 10 years ago, and how she could be so sure her younger friend had been subjected to the same treatment based on what Schubert called her “hunch” that her friend had been assaulted.
“This case, and this story, starts with [her] and ends with [her]” he declared, maintaining that the alleged victim had been subject to emotional and behavioral problems before she turned 9.
Calling her a “troubled young lady,” he urged the jury to keep in mind that reports of multiple assaults against the younger girl did not come out until after the older girl complained that no one was listening to her.
The older alleged victim testified that she had told anyone who would listen that Flores-Rosario, when she was 9 years old, had talked her into showing him an appendectomy scar from an operation a year earlier, and then had “slid his hand down into my pants” and “touched my vagina.”
But Schubert claimed to have evidence, in the form of a videotaped interview between the young woman and a “forensic interviewer,” at which time the woman said her alleged assailant had not touched her there. The video was not shown to the courtroom on Monday because time ran out, but will be shown at a later point in the trial.
Pressing the alleged victim for exact dates of conversations with teachers, counselors and her mother, Schubert was able to shake some of the young woman’s confidence and elicit responses that were different from things she had said earlier.
As Schubert asked repeatedly about the lapse of time between the alleged incident and the investigation, and the source of the young woman’s “feeling” that her friend also had been assaulted, the witness at one point broke down in tears, prompting a 15-minute recess while she composed herself.
The case is to resume this morning at 8:30, with the second witness for the prosecution.