Jury acquits 2 men in rape, robbery
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent September 28, 2012 3:38PM
Updated: October 30, 2012 6:07AM
Lake Superior Court jurors Friday acquitted two men charged in the 2011 rape and robbery of a woman at a Hammond motel.
Jurors deliberated less than two hours before returning the verdicts for Thaddeus Luis Rodriguez, 22, of East Chicago, and Ulises Barcenas-Castro, 32, of Highland, who were acquitted of charges of rape, criminal deviate conduct, robbery, confinement, battery, strangulation and intimidation in the assault of a 48-year-old woman.
The woman testified she was outside smoking a cigarette on June 12, 2011, at the Motel 6 in Hammond when a man asked her for a light. She went to her room to get a lighter and a man she identified as Barcenas-Castro followed her inside, put his arm around her neck and “choked her out.”
On Thursday, Lake Superior Court Judge Thomas Stefaniak revoked the bond for Barcenas-Castro based on a federal complaint charging him with illegally re-entering the country following deportation for a 2005 robbery conviction in Florida. Barcenas-Castro also uses the alias Hiram Joel Perez-Diaz.
In her closing argument, deputy prosecutor Michelle Jatkiewicz said the two men worked together to carry out the attack on the woman, who was bound, gagged, punched and kicked, raped, forced to perform oral sex and brutalized with a can of mousse. One of the men cut her on the lower leg, thigh and abdomen with a knife. She said the men stole a digital camera and other items from the room.
The woman identified both men from photo lineups and in court.
Jatkiewicz reviewed photos taken of the woman showing red marks around her wrists and ankles and the injuries documented by medical personnel who treated the woman.
Defense attorney Jerry Peteet, representing Rodriguez, suggested the woman was a prostitute who hadn’t been paid for her services and blasted the Hammond police investigation as incomplete. “You’ve seen more than 100 pieces of evidence — there’s nothing conclusive that Thaddeus did anything,” Peteet said.
Defense attorney Scott King, who represents Barcenas-Castro, challenged the woman’s identification of his client, whom she initially described for police as about 5 feet 10 to 5 feet 11 with tattoos on both arms. Her subsequent description placed his height at about 6 inches shorter with a goatee. Barcenas-Castro has an elaborate tattoo on his right forearm and none on his left arm.
Rodriguez’s first trial ended in mistrial when Barcenas-Castro punched him in the face, breaking his nose.
In November 2011, Barcenas-Castro had pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal, a Class C felony punishable by a sentence of two to eight years, but his plea agreement was withdrawn after prosecutors discovered he had lied about his identity and criminal history.
The men gave statements to police implicating each other, but that information could not be presented to the jury under criminal rules of evidence.
Rodriguez has a pending burglary case in which he has pleaded not guilty. Barcenas-Castro will be turned over to federal authorities for prosecution.