Man not guilty of rape charges

Maryland Independent - - News - By CERONE WHITE cwhite@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Cerone_Indy News

A Wal­dorf man was found not guilty Mon­day of charges he al­legedly raped a young fe­male fam­ily mem­ber in 2012.

The 16-mem­ber jury as­sem­bled to hear de­tails about charges brought against Leonel An­to­nio Ron­don, 26, of Wal­dorf in Charles County Cir­cuit Court. After a week-long trial, Ron­don was ac­quit­ted of al­legedly rap­ing a 7-year-old fam­ily mem­ber in 2012.

Ac­cord­ing to the child’s tes­ti­mony, she was told by Ron­don not to say any­thing to her mother or any other fam­ily mem­bers after the al­leged in­ci­dent oc­curred.

“I be­lieve my daugh­ter and I can­not go with­out get­ting jus­tice,” the child’s mother tes­ti­fied in court.

Ac­cord­ing to the child’s tes­ti­mony, she re­port­edly didn’t tell any­one be­cause she was afraid of what he would do to her fam­ily. Tes­ti­mony from the al­leged vic­tim said that Ron­don came over to the house, turned the lights off and took her clothes off. The al­leged vic­tim also said that he closed the door to the bed­room when he en­tered her room.

Dur­ing clos­ing state­ments, lawyers for Ron­don ar­gued that chil­dren make up sto­ries and that this was just a tale con­cocted by the young fam­ily mem­ber with coach­ing by the child’s mother, who was al­legedly us­ing her daugh­ter as a means to se­cure her im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus in the United States.

“You can come up with a story, but the truth al­ways comes out,” Ron­don’s lawyer said in clos­ing ar­gu­ments.

In their own clos­ing ar­gu­ment, the de­fense stated the “state’s case was weak, and that Chris­tine Martin — the nurse who tes­ti­fied as a med­i­cal ex­pert — was bi­ased and was not fully qual­i­fied to con­duct such exam.”

To bol­ster their de­fense, Ron­don’s lawyers brought ex­pert wit­ness Rachael Ull­man, an im­mi­gra­tion lawyer, to tes­tify on just how one could ac­quire a U-Visa — a non­im­mi­grant visa set aside for vic­tims of crimes (and their im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­bers) who have suf­fered sub­stan­tial men­tal or phys­i­cal abuse and are will­ing to as­sist law en­force­ment and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion or pros­e­cu­tion of the crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

But after the state asked the child’s mother to present doc­u­ments show­ing her travel doc­u­ments and the child’s travel doc­u­ment to show that the dates were, in fact, way after the al­leged rape was com­mit­ted, the de­fense re­versed their course of the­ory and had no fur­ther ques­tions.

When the jury be­gan to de­lib­er­ate June 9, more than six notes were sent to the judge, re­quest­ing to re-hear ad­di­tional tes­ti­monies. After the third note, with ju­rors ask­ing to hear the tes­ti­mony of Lar­son, the de­fense pro­posed that a mis­trial be granted. Judge West im­me­di­ately de­nied the de­fense’s mo­tion.

Ron­don was fac­ing charges of sec­ond-de­gree rape, sec­ond-de­gree sex of­fense, third-de­gree sex of­fense, sex­ual abuse of a mi­nor and sec­ond-de­gree as­sault. If con­victed, he would have faced a min­i­mum prison term of 15 years or the max­i­mum, which is life in prison.

The jury’s de­lib­er­a­tion be­gan last Fri­day and a ver­dict was reached shortly be­fore mid­day June 12. Ron­don’s lawyers had no com­ment on the case and the Charles County States At­tor­ney’s of­fice did not re­spond to a re­quest for a state­ment.

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