1 suspect in rape of girl, 14, is not guilty
One of two men accused of raping an intoxicated 14-year-old girl at a summer party was found not guilty Wednesday by a Jackson County Circuit Court jury after a two-day trial.
Ivan Uribe, 23, faced two counts of first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sexual abuse, all Measure 11 crimes carrying a possible maximum combined sentence of nearly 30 years in prison. But the jury cleared the Medford man of the crimes after deliberating for about an hour.
Uribe wept and thanked his defense attorney, Christine Herbert, after hearing the four "not guilty" verdicts read by Judge Tim Barnack.
During closing arguments, Herbert said there was no DNA evidence linking her client to the teen. There also were no reliable witnesses to the alleged sex acts — and the teen herself had no clear recollection of events that occurred the night of June 19, she said.
"There's just no evidence," Herbert told the jurors. "He's innocent. Send him home."
But after the jurors were excused, Barnack said he disagreed with their findings. Uribe had "dodged a serious bullet," he said.
"In my opinion this was a crime of opportunity," Barnack told Uribe. "You just got handed a gift. You should consider yourself very lucky."
Neither prosecutors nor the defense attorney opted to include a lesser charge of third-degree rape in the case. Third-degree rape is sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16 but at least 14 years old.
On Tuesday, the girl testified she drove to a party in Medford with some friends and the Uribes, whom she did not know. She said she has only hazy recollections of the events that occurred in a darkened bedroom where her friends had taken her to sleep off the effects of hard liquor, two dozen shots of beer and several hits of marijuana. The girl willingly ingested the drugs and alcohol, she said.
"We were playing beer pong," the girl said.
Later that night, Uribe and his cousin, Ricardo Martinez-Uribe, 19, entered the bedroom. Uribe took off her clothes and then raped her while Martinez-Uribe held her arms, the girl said.
"Ivan started first while Ricardo was holding me down," she said. "Ivan was trying to kiss me. I kept moving my head and saying 'no.'"
Martinez-Uribe then raped her while Uribe stood guard at the door, she said.
Medford police Detective Jim Williams testified Uribe consistently denied having sex with the girl.
Several of the teen's underage girlfriends who also attended the party testified the girl was "passed out" and incoherent on the couch. One of her friends had to tell the girl she had been raped, Herbert said.
The girls spent the night together in the bedroom after the alleged attacks. They did not call the police or their parents that night, and they watched movies in the morning while waiting for rides home, she added.
"It makes no sense," Herbert said.
Believing the state had failed in its burden of proof, Herbert rested her case without calling any witnesses, including Uribe.
District Attorney David Orr said Uribe was guilty of raping a young girl who was helpless to defend herself. And of helping his cousin do the same.
Orr argued in closing that reporting rape is an "intimidating prospect," especially for a young teen girl.
Orr said the lack of DNA evidence linking Uribe to the crimes, the teen's willingness to ingest the drugs and alcohol, her impaired memory and her failure to call police herself did not make her allegations untrue.
"This doesn't preclude the fact of rape," Orr said.
Prosecutors opted to sever the cousins' cases just prior to Uribe's trial. Martinez-Uribe's case will be heard at a later date.
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail email@example.com.