A South Florida man was recently convicted of rape and false imprisonment after a jury deliberated for just two hours, shortly after hearing testimony directly from the accused.
Our Fort Lauderdale felony defense lawyers know that in any jury trial, it’s always a risky proposition for a defendant to take the stand. It’s a calculated risk that must be carefully weighed by your defense team.
In this case, the defendant had previously been acquitted of an earlier sexual assault that followed a similar pattern. Details of neither that case nor a third similar allegation were allowed to be entered into evidence.
According to news reports, the former grocery store security guard, dubbed “The Romeo Rapist” was accused of attacking a woman who came to his apartment on a date. The woman’s 3-year-old daughter was present.
The accuser said she met the defendant at his apartment with her daughter. After he cooked dinner and cleared the plates, she said the defendant pinned her to the bed and sexually assaulted her while her young daughter was nearby. She said she feared for not only her safety but that of her child, who was next to the pair on the bed when the alleged assault occurred. She also claims she was choked by the defendant, causing a series of bruises on her neck.
The defendant did not deny sexual contact occurred between the two, but insisted it was consensual. He said the bruises were “hickeys.” He said the woman was upset about the hickeys and also about her daughter reportedly walking in on the pair in the midst of sexual intercourse in numerous locations throughout the apartment. He cited this as her possible motive for making false allegations.
His defense team also noted that the woman reportedly had a boyfriend, and may have needed a way to explain the bruises on her neck caused by foreplay.
Prosecutors argued that the defendant felt the accuser owed him sex because he had cooked her dinner. However, the defense team insisted that both parties were consenting adults.
Cases like this can be tough because they rely heavily on one party’s word versus another. Even DNA evidence that might in many cases prove or disprove an attack between strangers wouldn’t be enough in a case like this, where both parties concede sexual contact. The only thing being argued is the nature of that contact.
Florida Statute 794.011 allows that sexual battery (another term for rape) can be charged as a first-degree felony when the offender coerces the victim to submit by threatening force or violence likely to cause serious personal injury on the victim and the victim reasonably believes the offender has the ability to carry out that threat.
In this case, the accuser alleges that the defendant threatened to kill her and/or harm her daughter if she did not comply.
In Florida, first-degree felony is punishable by up to 30 years in prison. In addition to the false imprisonment charge, this defendant faces up to 45 years in prison during his upcoming sentencing.
Whether defense attorneys made the right call in putting the defendant on the stand in this case will be up for scrutiny in the coming weeks. While many defense attorneys will generally advise against it, sometimes putting a defendant on the stand is the only way to combat the emotionally powerful testimony of a tearful accuser, which often serves to significantly sway jurors.
However, defendants who agree to testify must know that they will face scrutiny on everything from their perceived emotions to their demeanor to the way they dress to the way they talk. Additionally, he or she will be subjected to cross examination by prosecutors, which can often be hostile and can quickly cause a defendant to be cast in a poor light. It’s not a decision that should be taken lightly.
If you are arrested in Palm Beach or Broward counties, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Romeo rapist’ convicted by Broward jury, Aug. 19, 2013, By Rafael Olmeda, Sun-Sentinel
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Coverup of Criminal Investigation Source Could be Problematic for Prosecution, Aug. 25, 2013, Fort Lauderdale Felony Defense Lawyer Blog