A Corvallis man convicted of rape may soon be free from prison after serving just over a fifth of his 25-year sentence, partially because his original trial wasn’t decided by a unanimous jury.
In 2016, a non-unanimous jury found Jose Carlos Perez-Cardenas guilty of raping an elementary school-aged girl as well as sexually abusing both her and another young girl in 2014. Perez-Cardenas was sentenced later that month by Benton County Circuit Court Judge David Connell to 25 years in prison.
On April 20 of this year, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Ramos v. Louisiana that non-unanimous jury verdicts — which, at the time, were only permissible in Louisiana and Oregon — are unconstitutional. The decision effectively gave all cases like Perez-Cardenas’ a stronger shot at an appeal.
According to court documents filed in the case, Perez-Cardenas sublet a bedroom in a Corvallis apartment from a woman with kids between August and December 2014. Other children would sometimes spend the night there as well.
The original charges against Perez-Cardenas alleged that he touched the vaginal area of one victim and had her touch his penis. He was also charged with touching the vagina of the other victim while she slept.
In July, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that Perez-Cardenas' conviction was in error and sent the case back to the Benton County Circuit Court.
On Wednesday, the now-41-year-old Perez-Cardenas accepted a plea deal in which he pleaded no contest to one count of attempted rape. All other charges in the case were dismissed.
Judge Joan Demarest handed down a 68-month sentence with credit for time served since his initial arrest on Dec. 24, 2014.
That was roughly 68 months ago.
As of Wednesday evening, Perez-Cardenas' new release date was still being calculated by the Oregon Department of Corrections.
Perez-Cardenas will also have to submit to 10 years of post-prison supervision, minus the five years and eight months he has already served.
Prosecuting attorney Jay Hughes said in Perez-Cardenas’ virtual plea and sentencing hearing that the turn of events is disappointing. Perez-Cardenas’ attorney, Clark Willes, said his client is ready to move forward. Perez-Cardenas, speaking through a Spanish interpreter, thanked the court for “giving me another opportunity and for giving me my freedom.”
The mother of one of the victims told the court that this is not the justice her daughter deserves.
“He’s the scummest of scum of the earth,” she said. “What he can do and what he’s done in the past frightens me. I hope that he can live with himself because my daughter has to live with what he did for the rest of her life while he gets to have freedom.”
Reporter Nia Tariq can be reached at 541-812-6091 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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