First Degree Sex Assault or Rape: Mistrial for Hung Jury

Sex Crimes

A man was charged with multiple charges in Rhode Island Superior Court, mainly First Degree Sexual Assault or Rape. The charges stemmed from the abduction of two prostitutes who were physically attacked, sexually assaulted and then robbed by two men. The abductions occurred close in time within approximately seventy minutes of one another and on the same city block. Though the prostitutes had no connection to each other, they were apparently attacked by the same people – two men, posing as customers, operating a dark colored sports utility vehicle in Providence, RI. The first woman was picked up by the men, beaten, stripped and sexually assaulted. She was forced to perform oral and vaginal sex with the men against her will. Once done with her, the men ejected the female prostitute from their vehicle naked onto a city street and fled the area. The victimized woman pulled a fire alarm call box to notify authorities. The second woman was picked up soon thereafter by two men in a vehicle that matched the description of the first woman’s abductors. The second woman was similarly forced to strip down, physically beaten and forced to engage in oral and vaginal sex against her will. The men then ejected her from their vehicle without her clothes and fled the area. She ran to a stranger’s home for help and woke its occupants by knocking on the door and ringing the bell. The occupants came to her aid by calling 911 and providing her with some clothes.

Moments after authorities received word of the second abduction, police connected the two incidents and dispatched the description of the two men and their vehicle. A patrol officer overheard the dispatched description. While patrolling an area for known prostitution, he observed a dark-colored sports utility vehicle pulled to the side of the road. A known prostitute was leaning in the vehicle from the passenger side. The patrol officer activated his lights and effected a motor vehicle stop causing the prostitute to walk off. Police approached the vehicle and discovered a single male operator. There were no other occupants or passengers inside. The male driver was polite and cooperative. He provided the officer with his license, registration and proof of insurance as directed. All of his documentation checked out. The officer ran the man’s name and it came back clean with no warrants or criminal history.

After notifying dispatch and other officers of the motor vehicle stop of a vehicle and at least one man (not two) that matched the prostitutes’ description, police arranged to transport the second prostitute to the scene for the purpose of conducting a procedure known as a show-up identification. The woman was transported to the scene by a patrol officer who informed her police had a possible suspect in custody. Upon her arrival, several officers on scene removed the man from the back of another patrol officer and shined a spot light on him. The woman then identified him as her attacker. Police arrested the man and charged him with rape. The next day, police interviewed the first prostitute and displayed to her a series of photographs, which included the man’s arrest photo. She also identified the man as her attacker. This resulted in additional rape and sexual assault charges.

The man retained Attorney John L. Calcagni III to defend him in this matter. The man initially appeared in Rhode Island District Court and was ordered held without bail pending the outcome of an evidentiary bail hearing. In the interim, Attorney Calcagni conducted a pretrial investigation that led to the development of alibi evidence on the man’s behalf. This included evidence that he was on his computer at a point in time when the first woman was abducted, and was conducting an ATM bank transaction in a different area of the city at or near the time the second woman was abducted. Attorney Calcagni offered this evidence at the bail hearing and successfully persuaded the Court to set bail so the man did not remain incarcerated while awaiting trial.

The man was ultimately indicted in Providence County Superior Court. After nearly two years of pretrial discovery and investigation, the matter proceeded to trial. Attorney Calcagni brought in his trial partner, Attorney John E. MacDonald to join the defense team in advance of trial. Before trial, the defense filed and prevailed on several motions to limit the State’s proposed trial evidence. Next, Attorney MacDonald employed his expertise to select a fair and impartial jury of twelve and two alternates. He then delivered an opening statement that outlined the defense theory, which conceded the women’s abductions but that their client was the victim of mistaken identity. The State’s case-in-chief consisted of the two victims, medical witnesses and law enforcement personnel. Attorney Calcagni cross-examined both victims. He highlighted their intoxication the night of the attacks, inability to see or limited observations of their attackers, inconsistencies between their descriptions of the attackers and Mr. Guevara and suggestiveness of the prior identifications. Cross-examinations of the law enforcement officers by both Attorneys Calcagni and MacDonald were aimed to emphasizing the lack of any physical evidence on Mr. Guevara’s person or in his vehicle linking him to the women. This included the absence of injury, blood, bodily fluids, hair, fingerprints and the personal items stolen from the women by their attackers. Attorney Calcagni also sought to undermine law enforcement’s investigation as incomplete, jumping to conclusions and ignoring alibi evidence such as a witness, computer browsing history and the ATM transaction.

In the defense portion of the trial, Attorneys Calcagni and MacDonald offered the man’s computer browsing history and a computer expert to explain it to the jury. The Defense also called as a witness the man’s ex-girlfriend who resided with him at the time. She provided testimony regarding the man’s activities that night, to include his presence at home and on the computer for the time period set forth in the browsing history, and his departure thereafter to buy food. Attorney Calcagni then delivered a closing argument in support of the man’s innocence. The argument outlined the unreliability of the eyewitness identifications, lack of corroborating physical evidence and impossibility given the alibi evidence comprised of the computer browsing history and girlfriend’s supporting testimony. After four days of deliberations, the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Accordingly, the judge declared a mistrial and dismissed the jurors from further service. Though not an acquittal, a mistrial under these circumstances is considered a victory for the defense.