A Bermuda Dunes man took away a developmentally disabled woman’s innocence when he allegedly raped her, a prosecution attorney argued, but the man’s defense attorney asserted that a reasonable doubt existed as to whether or not consent was present.
Gabriel Anthony Ortiz, 27, is accused of sexually assaulting the then 20-year-old woman, identified only as Jane Doe in court documents, who investigators say “functions at the competency of a 12-year-old girl,” according to court documents.
She suffers from cerebral palsy and other medical conditions according to an arrest warrant declaration, which states investigators “recognized the victim did not possess the cognitive abilities of adults her age and had the mannerisms of a pre-adolescent child.”
Sheriff’s deputies were contacted by staff at Eisenhower Medical Center in January 2018 and spoke with the victim, who told investigators the assault happened the previous night at Ortiz’s apartment, the declaration states.
Ortiz was arrested about a week later for an unrelated crime, and admitted kissing the victim, but said she initiated all other sexual contact.
The Riverside County District Attorney’s office officially charged Ortiz with one felony count each of rape on a person unable to consent and oral copulation on a person unable to consent.
During closing arguments at the Larson Justice Center on Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Amity Armes told jurors that Ortiz “violated the victim’s right to choose when to have that first sexual experience.”
Armes argued that the victim’s mental age of around 10-12 years old meant that she was unable to legally consent and that the defendant should have rightfully known that.
She asserted that the victim’s inability to form complete sentences stripped her of her ability to express herself at that time.
Ortiz’s defense attorney, Joseph Cavanaugh, contended that the victim was not properly tested for mental competency, and thus her mental age was only speculative.
“Why does the prosecution get to decide who is smart enough for sex,” said Cavanaugh.
He argued that a lack of proper mental testing meant a reasonable doubt existed as to whether or not consent was present, and thus Ortiz should be acquitted.
Ortiz is being held on $100,000 bail at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio.