- Jorge Velasquez: Warren County Jail
A judge declared a mistrial Friday after a Warren County jury reported being hopelessly deadlocked on whether a Mason man sexually assaulted and raped his girlfriend’s 9-year-old daughter.
Jorge Velasquez, 33, had been charged with one count of rape of a child and a lesser charge of gross sexual imposition. He pleaded not guilty to both charges.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated for just over five hours Friday before reporting to Warren County Common Pleas Court Judge James L. Flannery that they could not reach a verdict.
The jury split 6-4 in favor of acquittal with two jurors undecided, according to defense attorney Justin Bartlett, who spoke with jurors after the proceedings.
Prosecutors will retry the case, said Assistant Warren County Prosecutor Theresa Hiett.
Velasquez took the stand Friday in his own defense to counter allegations made by the now 14-year-old girl, who says he fondled and digitally penetrated her when she was 9.
The girl testified Thursday that she regarded Velasquez as a father figure. Velasquez and the girl’s mother have two other children together.
The alleged abuse began when her mother began working the night shift in late summer of 2006, leaving her and a toddler brother home alone with Velasquez, the girl said.
The abuse stopped several months later when her mother stopped working the night shift, she said.
“He told me not to tell my mom or else,” she told jurors. “I was scared because I thought if I told someone he would hurt me or anyone in my family.”
Both Velasquez and the girl’s mother testified that the girl fabricated the accusations to retaliate against Velasquez for preventing her from seeing an adult boyfriend.
“Nothing ever happened,” Velasquez told the jury. “[The victim] just said it now because [she] wants me in jail out of the way. She wants me to leave her alone so she can be with him.”
The boyfriend, Nehemias Cristobel, testified Friday that the victim confided in him last year about the alleged abuse and that he encouraged her to report it.
Under cross examination, Cristobel, now 22, admitted his relationship with the girl began when he was 20 and she was 12, but insisted that her mother and Velasquez approved of it on the condition their dates were chaperoned.
“Everyone tells lies in this world but I don’t think she would tell a lie this big,” he said.
The girl’s mother and the defendant’s brother, Guillermo Velasquez, both testified that the abuse could not have happened because the girl stayed overnight with relatives on days her mother worked the night shift.
The girl’s mother painted a portrait of an unruly and out-of-control teenager who made the accusations five years after the alleged incidents in response to efforts by her and Velasquez to prevent her from seeing Cristobel. When she tried to take away the girl’s cell phone, a gift from Cristobel, the girl struck and pushed her, she told jurors.
The mother said she did not report the incident to police because she is an undocumented immigrant and feared deportation.
Defense attorney Justin Bartlett attacked the girl’s credibility, pointing out inconsistencies in her story and arguing that she has a history of lying.
“Our position is that they’re acting as reasonable parents. They’re trying to prevent their daughter from engaging into a relationship with an adult,” he said. “She’s upset because her parents are trying to reel her in, control her.”
Hiett questioned the financial motives of the mother in protecting Velasquez, the family’s breadwinner, and asked the jury to consider why a teenage girl would fabricate such “detailed and imaginative” abuse allegations.
“It would have been a lot easier for her to turn around and say this never happened. There were alternatives for her and yelling rape was not the first one,” said Hiett.
“It’s always the child’s word against the perpetrator’s word. When is a child’s word enough?”
Bartlett said he was not surprised that the trial ended with a hung jury and said the case hinged on the accuser’s credibility.
“There was the credibility of one person versus three witnesses that came forward to testify consistently,” he said. “I thought it could have been a mistrial; obviously we were hoping for an acquittal.”
If convicted, Velasquez faces a prison term of up to life on the rape charge and 36 months on the charge of gross sexual imposition. He remains in the Warren County Jail on a $500,000 bond.
No new trial date has yet been set.
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