Montgomery County jury acquits 3 men in attempted-rape of 71-year-old woman

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 3, 2010

Three defendants were acquitted in Montgomery County this week of all charges in an attempted-rape case that shocked the community because the alleged victim was 71.

The circuit court jury deliberated for a little more than an hour Thursday after a two-day trial that highlighted the morning-hours drinking of four people described as homeless: the woman and three younger men who knew her.

Defense attorneys argued that the incident wasn't an attempted rape. Their contention: While the group was near a parking lot dumpster, two of the men propped the woman up to help her urinate, and one of the men pulled down his own pants to urinate nearby. The woman slipped, and the man bent over to help her -- this was mistaken by a witness as an attempted rape.

"I understand the need to protect this vulnerable individual," defense attorney David Moyse said Friday. "But the jury did the right thing by acquitting three innocent men."

The woman told authorities she didn't remember what happened. Prosecutors used this to try to show that she was a vulnerably helpless person. But from the witness stand, the woman couldn't give a detailed account of what happened.

Events leading to the trial began Jan. 20, when the four were in the White Oak section of Silver Spring, bought Bacardi dark rum, a mixer and cups, and started drinking by 10 a.m. outside a grocery store.

The woman, who drank two cups, was intoxicated, authorities said. (Her blood-alcohol level was later tested and found to be at 0.322, or about four times the legal limit for driving.)

Two of the men -- Jorge L. Ruiz, 48, and Cristobal A. Coreas, 26 -- held her up by her arms and moved her across a parking lot. The prosecution said she was dragged. Defense attorneys said she was helped, the way an injured football player gets helped off a field.

A third man -- Jose Mauricio, 32 -- followed the three across the lot, carrying the woman's bag.

"What's tragically ironic about this case is the defendants were trying to help her," said John Sharifi, a defense attorney.

What happened near the dumpster was a matter of debate. Police said that after the woman was dragged across the parking lot to the dumpster area, a witness got out of his vehicle and walked toward the group -- prompting Coreas, who had pulled his pants down, to suddenly leave. That witness testified that he saw Coreas, with his pants down, moving on top of the woman.

"We presented the charges we felt were appropriate," prosecutor Jeffrey Wennar said.

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