Editor's Note: The Gazette does not typically identify victims of alleged sexual assaults; in this story other details have been withheld to protect the girl’s identity.
An El Paso County jury on Thursday tossed all counts against a man being tried on allegations of sexually assaulting the teenage daughter of a widow he met through an online dating website.
The acquittal came after a three-day trial that could have led to life in prison for 24-year-old Anthony Rodriguez.
The jury deliberated for roughly four hours before returning not guilty decisions on three counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust. Panelists couldn’t be reached to discuss their conclusions.
After the verdict was announced, Rodriguez’s attorney, Ed Farry, cited problems with the credibility of the accuser, who was 14 when the abuse allegedly began in her Colorado Springs home.
“Her statements were inconsistent — each with each other — and some of them were beyond belief,” said Farry, who sought to persuade the jury the charges were the result of the girl’s resentment over her mother’s relationship with Rodriguez, which he said began within 90 days of the death of the girl’s father in a traffic crash.
Her father worked in law enforcement, according to testimony.
Prosecutors alleged Rodriguez committed a pattern of sexual assaults over a more than two-year period beginning late in 2009, with Rodriguez slipping out of his girlfriend’s bed at night and sneaking into her daughter’s room.
The girl told Colorado Springs police that Rodriguez threatened her life and once held a knife to her throat before assaulting her.
Prosecutors, however, were left with little by way of physical evidence.
After coming forward with her allegations, the girl told investigators she had washed any bed sheets and towels that might have contained biological evidence.
During closing arguments, Farry pointed to the lack of physical evidence and asked jurors to consider the circumstances of Rodriguez’s sudden relationship with the girl’s mother.
“The only evidence in this case is the say-so of the one person who resented and hated and was boiling with rage over Anthony Rodriguez coming into this home,” he said.
According to the defense, Rodriguez met the girl’s mother on Plentyoffish.com and moved in with her and her three children shortly after her husband’s death.
Prosecutor Michael Fisher countered in court that the girl had reasons to dislike Rodriguez — but said they revolved around abuse, not resentment.
“Namely, Anthony Rodriquez was crawling into bed with her and having sex with her against her will,” Fisher said.
The girl’s mother told authorities she once caught Rodriguez in her daughter’s bedroom early in the morning but accepted his explanation that he was comforting her over the death of her father.
Fisher told jurors the girl was reluctant to report the assaults because she was ashamed and believed that Rodriguez would make good on his threat to kill her and her mother.
Said Fisher after the verdict: “I’m not going to comment on the evidence or the sufficiency of the evidence, but I do want to thank the jury for their attention to this matter.”
Contact Lance Benzel: 636-0366 Twitter @lancebenzel
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