The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 19, 2013

Waseca rape suspect pleads not guilty

By Josh Moniz

---- — WASECA — The Waseca man accused of breaking into a woman's house and raping her for several hours entered a not guilty plea Tuesday in Waseca County District Court.

Armando DeLaCruz Jr. was charged with 29 felonies, including 21 counts of criminal sexual conduct in September. During the hearing Tuesday, DeLaCruz's attorney, Erica Sutherland, also requested that 12 of the 21 counts be dropped as duplicates of the same alleged act.

Brenda Miller, assistant county attorney, said the defense was trying to gett DeLaCruz off the hook for multiple incidents of rape and assault that happened to occur at the same location.

According to the police report, a man entered a house and surprised the victim in her room after she put her children to sleep. She said the man, whose face was covered, forced her into the room, began choking her, and removed her clothing to bind and blindfold her. She said she was able to bite the man.

The victim said she was raped three times and sexually assaulted in multiple ways over several hours. She said she did not call out for help because the man threatened to harm her children if they woke. The victim eventually escaped and the man left on a bicycle.

The victim said she managed to lift the covering on her face and recognized her attacker. She said she met the man, later identified as DeLaCruz, while riding with a friend to another city. She said the man overheard her telling her friend about a broken window in her house.

Sutherland argued DeLaCruz was being cumulatively charged for each position in the alleged rape, which could bias the jury. She said there was not sufficient distance of time nor space between the alleged actions for multiple charges of the same degree.

"You don't end up with 15 charges for each punch that was thrown in an assault," Sutherland said.

She said she would not challenge the lesser degree charges of criminal sexual conduct.

Miller said DeLaCruz committed multiple instances of rape and assault in the alleged attack, which occurred in the bathroom and the bedroom. She said the only similarities were that he violated the same Minnesota statutes.

However, Miller agreed with dropping the second and third counts of first-degree burglary of a dwelling. She said the other counts represented the children, and that she learned the law does not care how many people were in the dwelling.

Waseca District Court Judge Larry Collins said both sides clearly had issues with finding cases that specifically dealt with this manner. He granted two weeks for the defense to find cases proving its side and submit a brief. He said the prosecution would get an additional week for its brief.

He also granted the removal of the additional burglary charge but retained the initial first-degree burglary charge.

Both sides agreed to seek an eight-day trial in February.