Victim must remain in jail until accused rapist’s trial
Stating on the record that an ankle monitor would not be effective in locating a witness if she ran away, a judge sided with a deputy district attorney in ordering that a 20-year-old woman who often lives on the streets remain in jail until her alleged rapist’s trial next week.
Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia ordered that a woman testifying against Christian Alexander Sanchez — who will stand trial starting Sept. 13 on charges of rape, sodomy, kidnapping, assault, burglary, coercion and weapon use — must remain in the Jackson County Jail on a material witness hold until the trial is completed.
Mejia issued the hold order after hearing from Deputy District Attorney Zori Cook, who is prosecuting Sanchez, the woman’s lawyer, Donald Scales, the woman’s family and the woman herself, many of whom said they approved of the woman being detained until the completion of the three-day trial.
“I don’t take this lightly, but it’s a serious matter,” Mejia said.
Cook acknowledged the material witness hold is unusual but told Mejia it’s necessary. She said in court that although it’s not an “ideal situation,” the measure is needed to ensure the woman would appear for a multiday trial.
“Her family would prefer that she stays,” Cook said. “They know that here she’s safe.”
Cook said the woman last went missing Aug. 20 in order to be with a new boyfriend. Her disappearance prompted Medford police’s Livability Team to search for her along the Greenway.
“It has been a pattern,” Cook said. “If it was not for her mother, we would not be able to find her.”
Scales, the victim’s lawyer, argued that the 20-year-old woman leaving her mother’s home ostensibly to be with a boyfriend merits something less restrictive. He sought an ankle bracelet monitor rather than jail, along with court orders prohibiting her from using computers or other electronic communication, and not contacting her boyfriend or her boyfriend’s mother until after the trial.
“She has a serious narcotics issue,” Scales said, adding that at home she has access to suboxone to ease her opiate addiction.
The woman told Mejia that appearing in court is important because of what Sanchez did to her, and she swore she wouldn’t contact the boyfriend that drew her away from court appearances again.
“I’m not going to speak with him ever, ever again,” the woman said during the hearing.
Mejia consulted the woman’s mother from the audience, who told him, “She’s gotta keep her word.”
Mejia told the woman he believed her statement was sincere but voiced concern she wouldn’t be able to appear at trial without the material witness hold.
“I don’t doubt your sincerity ... but we’ve got to get this case resolved,” Mejia said.
Mejia said that an ankle bracelet is more effective at showing when someone didn’t comply with house arrest than it is for locating someone under home confinement orders.
“We don’t have GPS,” Mejia said. “It’d be, like, after the fact.”
Sanchez’s trial is slated to start Sept. 13. The charges allege Sanchez held the woman against her will in September 2020, forced her to engage in sex acts and physically assaulted the woman with weapons including a hammer, a lighter and a screwdriver, according to filings by the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office in his case.
Sanchez has multiple felony convictions, including prior convictions for third-degree rape, second-degree sexual abuse, second-degree online sexual corruption of a child and using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct stemming from an October 2012 Medford police arrest.
Sanchez was sentenced to almost six years in prison in 2013 after pleading guilty to multiple sex-crime charges related to underage girls.
Sanchez remains in jail on $750,000 bail pending his trial.
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