Jury acquits El Jebel man of unlawful sexual contact
EAGLE — An El Jebel woman took 62 days after an August 8, 2018, incident to walk into an Eagle County Sheriff’s Office substation in the Roaring Fork Valley and demand that a man be prosecuted for burglary and attempted unlawful sexual contact.
Guadalupe Chiguil also said she intended to seek a crime victim’s visa, also known as a U visa, because she had been sexually assaulted. Chiguil initially told authorities she did not want to press charges in the incident, claiming the man had touched her thigh twice and her ankle once.
The accused, in court testimony, claimed he was drunk after downing 15 beers and six or seven shots of mescal and said he wandered into the wrong house and passed out on the bedroom floor.
In his opening statement at last week’s trial, Ted Hess, the man’s defense attorney, told the jurors, “Entering the wrong house by mistake is enough trouble. It should not be made worse by charging the person with a sex crime.”
The 13-member jury — 12 jurors and one alternate, nine women and four men — agreed with Hess and co-defense counsel Brian Roche and acquitted the El Jebel man.
Both Chiguil and her husband testified that they are undocumented immigrants. After consulting with a counselor from Response, a domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy group in the Roaring Fork Valley, Chiguil, her husband and the Response advocate demanded the man’s prosecution, Hess said.
Hess and Roche built their client’s defense around that 62-day delay, contending that Chiguil went to the authorities with a sex offense charge because she wanted to apply for a U visa.. A U visa is an immigration benefit available to undocumented victims of sex offenses, Hess said.
The man entered his neighbor’s home during the early morning hours of August 8, 2018, and was found asleep on a bedroom floor.
Chiguil, who was sleeping in the bedroom, testified that the man, with whom she and her husband were acquainted, touched her leg in a sexual manner before he fell asleep on the floor. Chiguil woke up at 4:30 a.m., turned on a light, and found the man on the floor of her bedroom. She said she screamed and the man bolted from the bedroom.
The man said he had planned to sleep it off at his daughter’s house next door, but entered the wrong house. He also testified he had no memory of the evening after he started drinking mescal.
To get a U visa
Hess is an immigration and criminal defense attorney with Ted Hess and Associates in Glenwood Springs. He said his office has submitted more than 200 U visa petitions.
Hess said there are three things to know about the U visa:
- An alleged victim has to be the victim of a qualifying crime.
- The victim must cooperate with the police and prosecution.
- The victim needs a law enforcement agency to sign off on a law enforcement certification to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. In this case, the District Attorney’s Office signed off on the U visa, Hess said.
“Because the U visa motivates the alleged victim to please the prosecution, it is a factor that bears on the victim’s believability,” Hess said.
Even though the man was acquitted, Hess said he believes Chiguil will still get a U visa, because the outcome of the trial does not prevent the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service from granting a U visa.
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