A case involving a University of South Carolina student who alleges she was raped after leaving Five Points nightspots and walking back to her apartment near the main campus likely will go to a Richland County jury Wednesday morning.
On trial in the January incident is Carlos Jovany Hernandez, a 23-year-old who came to this country as a child and stands to be deported to Mexico if convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct. But if convicted, he first would serve up to 30 years in a South Carolina prison.
On Tuesday, after two days of testimony, both the prosecution and defense finished and rested their cases. Judge Robert Hood scheduled closing arguments to the jury to begin at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
So far, the high-profile case has highlighted the potential dangers of walking back to the USC campus late at night after visiting popular area nightspots.
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The trial also captures a theme of this year’s presidential campaign, with one of Republican Donald Trump’s main talking points being the deportation of Mexican immigrants, especially those who commit illegal acts. Democrat Hillary Clinton, too, is on record favoring deportation of immigrants who commit crimes.
Hernandez says the sex was consensual.
Both had been drinking at the time of the Jan. 30 incident. The defendant testified that he’d had six or seven drinks. And the victim’s blood-alcohol content measured 0.20. A measurement of 0.08 is evidence of impaired driving.
The two did not know each other before that night.
Hernandez was living in Batesburg-Leesville with his parents and worked with a pipe-laying company. For two years, he had attended Spartanburg Methodist University, where he played soccer, according to testimony and evidence in the case.
On Monday and Tuesday, the three-person prosecution team of Margaret Bodman, Carter Potts and John Steadman paraded before the jury a stream of eyewitness, medical and scientific testimony.
Prosecution evidence in the case includes bruises on the victim, eyewitness testimony about how disheveled and upset she was just after the incident and DNA taken from her body that is a match with Hernandez’s DNA – “a one in 33 quadrillion,” testified a SLED DNA expert.
Evidence also includes numerous clips of Five Points area surveillance cameras that show Hernandez walking behind the victim and her female friend from the brightly lit Five Points at around 3 a.m. into a nearby darker, less-congested residential neighborhood.
The victim, a USC student in her early 20s, testified Monday. She said she had arrived at the apartment she shared with two other young women just off Greene Street, when she noticed the young man – Hernandez – standing nearby. With her friend having gone into the apartment, the victim asked Hernandez if he needed help.
At that point, the victim testified, she felt something hard against her back and he told her he had a gun and would shoot her if she didn’t cooperate. Then he forced her to an alley, where he raped her, she testified.
On the witness stand Tuesday, Hernandez described a pleasant chance encounter, saying the victim began kissing him and then led him to a nearby alley, where they had consensual sex.
After trial Tuesday, his attorney, Aimee Zmroczek, told a reporter that Hernandez has been in the country legally since being brought to the United States as a boy. However, his visa is conditional, and even if he is acquitted, he likely will be deported, she said.
Hernandez’s precarious immigration status was underscored by Zmroczek.
“Even if he is acquitted, Mr. Hernandez is still facing deportation,” Zmroczek told the judge with the jury out of the courtroom as the lawyers argued a legal point.
The State does not name victims of sexual assault.