Jury hung on sexual assault, kidnapping charges in Aspen trial
An Aspen jury reached an impasse last night on sexual assault and kidnapping charges against a man accused of raping a woman three times outside of the Centennial Apartments on Jan. 17, 2009.
The jury convicted Emanuel Gonzalez-Loujun of two other felony charges – possession of cocaine, and possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. He was also found guilty of resisting arrest.
Jurors determined that Gonzalez-Loujun, 22, of Carbondale, was not guilty of assault on a police officer.
The jury announced at about 6 p.m. Sunday that it couldn’t come to a consensus on the sexual assault and kidnapping charges. The jury foreman told Judge James Boyd of Pitkin County District Court that further deliberations would be of no use, saying the issues had been thoroughly discussed. The jury deliberated for nine hours – until 10 p.m. Saturday – after hearing closing arguments in the case. They took the rare step of meeting on Sunday, when they deliberated for another 7 1/2 hours. Two jurors had previously made travel plans and had purchased airplane tickets for departure today.
It couldn’t be determined how the jury was split on the two charges. All 12 jurors declined to discuss the case with attorneys for the prosecution and defense as they departed the courthouse.
Prosecutor Arnold Mordkin said he didn’t know yet whether Gonzalez-Loujun would be retried on the sexual assault and kidnapping charges. His office needs to take time to assess the case and trial, and also determine if the alleged victim can withstand the pressures of another trial. “We always consult the victim in cases like this,” Mordkin said.
He has 90 days to take action, unless the parties waive the deadline. The sexual assault and kidnapping charges are pending, as though a trial had not occurred.
Meanwhile, Gonzalez-Loujun will remain in Pitkin County Jail awaiting sentencing.
The case took an obvious emotional toll on the alleged victim but also on several of the jurors. At least four female jurors were crying as they left the courthouse. “I didn’t think I’d get this emotional,” one juror said as she departed.
The alleged victim cried quietly as the verdicts were read, and she displayed a look of surprise that the suspect was acquitted of assault on a peace officer for a confrontation that took place during his arrest. The alleged victim was comforted by friends in the courtroom.
Mordkin said Gonzalez-Loujun faces a potentially lengthy prison term after being convicted of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. The exact sentence range wasn’t available in the minutes immediately after the jury announced its verdicts.
The most serious offense was sexual assault. Conviction could have resulted in 16 years to life in prison. The kidnapping allegation carried a potential sentence of 16 to 48 years.
Gonzalez-Loujun allegedly followed the woman home from a bus stop at the Centennial complex shortly before 2 a.m. on Jan. 17, 2009, and dragged her to various locations, including a snow bank outside her apartment, where he was accused of sexually assaulting her. The victim testified that he said he would kill himself with a gun if she didn’t comply with his demands, and that she was afraid for her own life.
The alleged victim testified during the trial that when the suspect pushed her down on the snowbank and fell on top of her, “I knew I was about to get raped.” She acknowledged that she offered him oral sex in an effort to prevent her alleged attacker from forcing her to have intercourse.
Gonzalez-Loujun’s public defenders, Tina Fang and Stephen McCrohan, tried to convince the jury from opening arguments through testimony and closing statements that the sex was consensual. They also contended the Aspen Police Department didn’t do a thorough investigation.
The arrest on the drug charges and the assault on a peace officer allegation stemmed from the aftermath of the alleged sexual assault. Aspen Police Officer Leon Murray responded to the emergency call of an alleged sexual assault at Centennial and was the first to encounter Gonzalez-Loujun. There was an scuffle, and the men fell to the icy ground. After subduing the suspect, police said they found 14 bindles of cocaine on him.
Although Gonzalez-Loujun could be going to prison for a significant amount of time, he sounded relieved in court last evening. After the judge informed him that he will need to appear in court again on April 19, Gonzalez-Loujun thanked the judge in a wavering voice. It appeared that he grew tearful after the verdicts were read, as well.
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