Jury deliberates alleged sex assault case
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A jury of nine men and three women on Thursday afternoon started deliberating a case of alleged sex assault on two young girls by their male neighbor, but a verdict had not been reached by 7 p.m. Thursday night, well after the Post Independent’s normal story deadline.
At one point, after the jury had deliberated for about three and a half hours, they came back into the courtroom to listen for a second time to a recording of a “pretext call” by one of the victims to the alleged assailant, in which the girl talked of the assaults in an effort to draw some sort of corroborating information from her attacker.
The case involves six counts of attempted or actual sexual assault on girls younger than 15 years old, although the incidents were alleged to have happened over a period of time that began nearly a decade ago. The assaults are alleged to have started in 2003 with one girl, now 18, who testified she was 8 or 9 years old at the time and that the assault occurred in the bedroom of her neighbor, Gustavo Flores-Rosario.
A series of later, alleged sexual assaults on another girl, four years younger than the first alleged victim, are said to have occurred when the younger girl was 8 or 9 years old as well, between 2007 and 2010.
Flores-Rosario, 54, was a neighbor to the families of both girls when they lived in a trailer park in Carbondale. The names of the girls are not being released because the alleged incidents took place when they were minors, and because of the sensitivity of the subject.
In testimony on Thursday, witnesses told the jury that many of the neighbors in the trailer park were aware of the accusations of sexual assault on the girls, and were talking about it among themselves but not confronting Flores-Rosario.
Defense attorney Bill Schubert, in his closing arguments on Flores-Rosario’s behalf, told the jury, “We are here because two young ladies told a story. Frankly it’s a story that’s gotten out of control.”
He reminded the jury that the younger of the girls in the case had a troubled history in school, where she once made up a story about a mythical boyfriend who had died, and had lied to her fellow students, parents and authorities “about the serious matter of the death of another human being.”
The allegations of sexual assault, Schubert maintained, are similar to that story, in that “this story isn’t true either.”
He maintained that both girls were very troubled, and had made up their stories about Flores-Rosario for unknown reasons. As evidence of their untruthfulness, he pointed to discrepancies in their testimonies, such as dates that didn’t line up with the testimony of others and changes in the stories of how far the sexual assaults had progressed.
Schubert also implied that law enforcement agencies were complicit in a conspiracy to convict his client, and that when the initial charges of assault seemed inadequate they had somehow elicited further stories about additional assaults in different locations than the Flores-Rosario home. During the trial, the younger of the two girls had testified that the defendant had not only assaulted her in his home, but also in the front seat of a pickup truck, and that the memories of the assaults had emerged only this year after being suppressed for nearly a decade.
Flores-Rosario, Schubert said, “was loved and respected in his neighborhood,” to the point where parents asked him to stand up as godfather to their children, and he gave big neighborhood parties attended by parents and their children.
It was after certain of these parties, when the victims and other young girls slept over and shared a bed with Flores-Rosario and his wife, Juana, that some of the assaults were said to have occurred.
Flores-Rosario did not testify in his own defense, Schubert said, because “he’s done testifying,” having told his story to various authorities already.
Pressing the conspiracy theory of the case, Schubert at one point said the “pretext call” between the younger victim and the defendant was “scripted, scripted, scripted,” and orchestrated by two Carbondale police officers, who Schubert accused of lying on the stand to maintain their stories.
But Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory responded to Schubert’s accusations by telling the jury, “There is no conspiracy here.”
The jury had watched the two alleged victims testify, Mallory said, “You’ve seen how truthful they were.”
Schubert’s focus on the gossip of the neighborhood and other issues, Mallory said, “that’s just to distract you.”
He said it was not unheard of for victims of this kind of crime to bury it in their minds, and later begin to experience memories of details long ignored.
Mallory spoke incredulously of Schubert’s statements to the jury that Flores-Rosario was unfairly left “in the dark” while the whispering rumor campaign swirled around him, adding, “Does that ring true to what you’ve heard” on the pretext call tape?
“He’s subtle, and manipulative,” Mallory said of Flores-Rosario. “He blames her [the victim] repeatedly,” saying she’ll get in trouble if she goes to the authorities with her story, that she should have awakened Juana if she felt uncomfortable sleeping in the same bed with him, and that she should have done something long before.
If a verdict was not reached Thursday night, the case is scheduled to resume today at 9 a.m.
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