A 28-year-old man from Mexico has been allowed to plead no contest to a misdemeanor to resolve a case in which he originally faced three felony counts of first-degree sexual assault.
Guillermo Orozco, of Merida, Mexico, had been scheduled to stand trial Monday on charges that he forced sexual relations on a woman July 16 in his cruise ship stateroom. Both Orozco and the woman were passengers on Royal Caribbean's Vision of the Seas as it sailed through Icy Strait.
Juneau District Attorney Patrick Gullufsen told Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks the driving force behind the charge reduction was the trauma it would have caused the victim to travel to Juneau.
The victim was not identified. Alaska State Troopers reported that she was a 22-year-old El Paso, Texas, resident.
On the amended charge of fourth-degree assault, Weeks sentenced Orozco to a year in jail, all but 70 days suspended, and fined him $1,000 with $500 suspended. He also placed Orozco on probation for two years and ordered the defendant to pay the victim up to $5,000 in restitution.
Orozco had already spent nearly two months in custody since being taken off the ship in July by police in Skagway.
Alaska law says a person convicted of a single charge of first-degree sexual assault can be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.
The grand jury indictment alleged Orozco forced sex on the woman three times in the early hours of July 16. Gullufsen amended the indictment to allege the defendant recklessly placed the woman "in fear of imminent physical injury" when he pulled her into his stateroom while in an intoxicated state.
The charge does not address any sexual activity that may have followed.
Orozco's attorney, Patrick Conheady, said at the sentencing hearing that his client insists the sexual activity was consensual. He also said his client agreed he was intoxicated at the time, causing the woman to be afraid.
Conheady had filed a motion to dismiss the original grand jury indictment, which Juneau prosecutors had opposed. There is no record of Weeks' ruling on the motion. Conheady argued that Orozco's 15-year-old cousin should have been allowed to testify before the grand jury by telephone from Mexico. The boy, who was in the room with Orozco's 15-year-old brother during the alleged assault, told a state trooper in Juneau that it did not sound like Orozco was hurting the woman.
The testimony would have shed more light on a case where the man said the sex was consensual and the woman said it was not, Conheady argued.
In opposing the motion, Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner noted the boy had originally said only Orozco and the two boys were in the room. He didn't say he had seen the woman having consensual sex with his cousin until Orozco was arrested and put in jail, Gardner said.
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