Judge tosses out rape charges in cold case trial

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - LOCAL - By Marc Free­man Staff writer

The pros­e­cu­tion of a for­mer Boyn­ton Beach man on charges of rap­ing a men­tally im­paired woman in 2004 has ended, after a judge tossed two felony counts be­cause the al­leged crimes hap­pened too long ago.

Pascal Es­time, 55, was re­leased from Palm Beach County Jail on Mon­day evening, hours after Cir­cuit Judge Sa­man­tha Schos­berg Feuer dis­missed the charges and can­celed a Dec. 11 trial.

Es­time is free to re­turn to his home in Or­lando, where he had lived be­fore his ar­rest in July while he waited at Fort Laud­erdale-Hol­ly­wood In­ter­na­tional Air­port to board a plane for Haiti.

The case had gone cold un­til de­tec­tives last year got a new war­rant for Es­time’s DNA.

It turned out to be a near 100 per­cent match to DNA from fe­tal tis­sue col­lected and pre­served through the years after the 20-year-old vic­tim’s preg­nancy was aborted.

Iden­ti­fied in court records only by the ini­tials, T.J., the vic­tim, with an IQ in the range of 40 to 55, was sex­u­ally bat­tered by Es­time twice in the home of her care­taker, Boyn­ton Beach po­lice said.

The woman gave a sworn state­ment nam­ing “Pascal” as her at­tacker, but po­lice weren’t able to lo­cate Es­time at that time to serve a war­rant for his DNA. In 2016, Es­time was tracked to Or­lando and a new ef­fort was made to get his DNA, cul­mi­nat­ing in his ar­rest at the air­port.

“Jus­tice was a long time com­ing for the vic­tim in this case,” Boyn­ton Beach po­lice an­nounced after Es­time’s cap­ture and his “full con­fes­sion.”

But the per­sis­tence of de­tec­tives to make an ar­rest now ap­pears to have been in vain.

The judge ruled that a four-year statute of lim­i­ta­tions to bring charges ap­plies, re­gard­less of the re­cent DNA match.

Pros­e­cu­tors, who can still ap­peal the rul­ing, de­clined to comment.

As­sis­tant Public De­fender Christo­pher Fox-Lent said he could not dis­cuss the out­come of the case, point­ing in­stead to the judge’s or­der. A Boyn­ton Beach po­lice spokes­woman did not re­spond to a re­quest for comment.

As­sis­tant State At­tor­ney Bri­anna Coak­ley had ar­gued the clock hadn’t run out on the pros­e­cu­tion be­cause the DNA wasn’t used to iden­tify Es­time un­til June.

Fa­vor­ing an ar­gu­ment from Es­time’s lawyer, Schos­berg Feuer ex­plained in her rul­ing that there are re­stric­tions on when DNA can be used to file charges against some­one many years after a crime.

A DNA match for a cold case ar­rest is al­lowed in cases where a sus­pect re­mains un­known un­til the DNA dis­cov­ery, the judge wrote in a seven-page or­der.

But law en­force­ment knew about Es­time in 2004 be­cause the vic­tim “ex­plic­itly” named her as­sailant, mean­ing there was four years from that point to start the pros­e­cu­tion, the judge said.

“T.J., the vic­tim, gave a sworn state­ment to law en­force­ment di­rectly nam­ing the De­fen­dant, a man with whom she was fa­mil­iar, and de­scribed the al­leged acts that took place,” Schos­berg Feuer wrote.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.