JEFFERSON — A 43-year-old Jefferson man charged with third-degree sexual assault was in Jefferson County Court Tuesday for a final status conference.
If convicted, Miguel Rodriguez faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
According to the criminal complaint, the female victim was with a friend and they drove to Rodriguez’s residence June 20, 2017.
Rodriguez and the alleged victim, now 23, went to Rodriguez’ bedroom to get nail clippers, the complaint states. While there, he reportedly closed and locked the door. He flirted with the woman, who indicated she was not interested due to the age difference.
The complaint states that when Rodriguez asked to kiss her, the woman said yes. He then reportedly began touching her all over her body and she stated, “let’s not do this.”
He continued touching her as she calmly said “no,” and then she froze as he continued, the complaint states.
According to the complaint, the woman repeatedly told him no as he unzipped his pants and got on top of her. After the assault, which allegedly took place around 9 or 10 p.m., the woman left the bedroom and spoke to her other friend, who did not seem very supportive. When she spoke to Rodriguez, he reportedly invited her to go somewhere so they could “finish.”
The victim and another friend went to Walmart to get a Plan B pill to prevent pregnancy.
Asked by authorities about not reporting the assault on that night, the victim said she did not know what to do. The next morning, two friends convinced her to report the assault and go to the hospital.
Police took photos of the text message exchanges between the victim and Rodriguez about her telling him he would have to pay for the Plan B pill and his response: “didn’t do anything inside.”
During his contact with police, Rodriguez reportedly admitted having sexual contact with the victim. He also acknowledged her saying “no” approximately two times while he was touching her, so he thought she wanted to have sex.
According to the complaint, Rodriguez told police the victim was not upset after the incident and the two had joked about it, so he did not think it was an issue.
In court Tuesday, Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Bennett Brantmeier, Assistant District Attorney Brookellen Teuber and defense attorney Donna Jean Kuchler worked to iron out all the details before the case goes to a three-day trial next month.
“I think we’ve uncovered every stone we thought we’d uncover through pre-trial motions prior to trial,” Brantmeier said.
The three issues that were decided Tuesday were the admittance of medical records at trial, questions Brantmeier will ask during jury selection and the specific language used in jury instructions at the end of the trial.
Teuber had made a notice to introduce medical records into evidence and certify them as authentic, but the nurse who did the original examination has retired and will not be subpoenaed.
Teuber said that because the records have been certified, a records custodian isn’t needed. Kuchler said she would object to not being able to cross-examine the nurse about the exam.
Brantmeier ruled to admit the medical records and said the defense would be able to call any witnesses it needed during trial — including the nurse.
After ruling on the issue of the medical records, the procedural matters of the trial were discussed.
Brantmeier said there will be 13 jurors called, with one being used as an alternate.
He also discussed questions he would ask jurors while they were being selected because Rodriguez is charged with sexual assault.
“The court will ask in voir dire questions that are sensitive in nature,” Brantmeier said. “Because of the nature of this case, we would inform the jury they can answer questions confidentially from the other jurors.”
Finally, Kuchler requested a modification to the jury instructions. She said she does not believe the standard jury instructions correctly express the burden of proof on the prosecution.
“The goal is to instruct the jury on the relevant legal principle as clearly, accurately and concisely as possible,” Kuchler said.
Teuber argued that this specific issue regarding jury instructions already has been handled and the “boilerplate” instructions should be enough.
Brantmeier denied the motion to modify the jury instructions.
“You’ve made a very intellectual argument,” Brantmeier said. “But the jury instruction committee has ruled on this. Your argument is preserved for appeal.”
Rodriguez is scheduled to appear in court for trial Monday, Nov. 11, at 8:30 a.m.