Absent man gets seven years

Elvis Cardona Padilla, who
absconded two weeks before his trial, was found guilty of burglary with intent
to rape, and indecent assault. Justice Howard Cooke sentenced him on Tuesday to
seven years imprisonment.

Padilla, 30, was scheduled to
attend Grand Court on Monday for trial after entering pleas of not guilty to
both charges. When he failed to appear, Justice Cooke made inquiries in the
absence of any jurors.

The investigating officer said he had
checked with Padilla’s family and was told the defendant had gone to Honduras. He
then checked with the Immigration Department and learned there was no record of
Padilla’s departure.

 Senior Crown Counsel Trevor Ward then applied
to have the trial proceed, arguing that Padilla had wilfully absconded.

It is in the public interest that a
trial should take place within a reasonable time rather than have it adjourned
indefinitely, Mr Ward said. He also noted Defence Attorney John Furniss was present,
so Padilla’s legal interests would be looked after.

Mr. Furniss said he had had contact
with his client and it did appear that Padilla absconded in the full knowledge
his trial was coming up.

Justice Cooke ruled the trial would
proceed.  When potential jurors assembled,
he told them the defendant had absconded and the court would try him in his absence.
Although Padilla was not there to challenge any jurors, his attorney could so.

The evidence was presented on
Monday, after which Mr. Ward and Mr. Furniss summed up their cases.

On Tuesday morning, Justice Cook
gave instructions to the jurors. He
warned them they must not say Padilla was guilty because he did not answer his
bail.

Although Padilla did not give
evidence or call any witnesses, there was no burden on him – whether absent or
present – to prove his innocence, the judge emphasised.

The incident leading to the charges
occurred in April, 2009. The only witness giving evidence in person explained
that she went out to dinner and then to a bar with her female roommate and a
male friend.

At the bar, Padilla came up and
spoke with her and she thought he looked familiar. She asked if was related to
someone she named and it turned out he was. Padilla phoned that relative, who
then came to the bar.

By that time it was closing time,
so they all conversed in the parking lot until it was decided to continue
getting acquainted at the woman’s apartment. She went home with her roommate
and the friend, while Padilla, his brother and the relative travelled in another
car.

Padilla and his brother subsequently
arrived, but without the relative. They were invited in and everyone socialised
until around 4am when the roommate said the men should leave because the women
were going to bed.

The men did leave and the women
secured the premises before retiring to their separate bedrooms.

The woman said she fell asleep and
then woke up because she felt a weight on top of her. She raised her hands and
felt something. She realised it was an erect penis.

When she looked up she saw it was Padilla.
He twice said, “Could I?” and she replied “No” both times. She started pushing
him off and he did not have on any clothes.

“I was scared and I felt very
intimidated because it was a person I invited to my home and trust,” she told
the court.

She said she got out of bed and
realised she had nothing on from the waist down although she had gone to bed
wearing knee-length pants and a T-shirt. She saw her pants on the floor and put
them on quickly.

She opened the bedroom door and ran
to the front door of the apartment, telling Padilla to get out. He said he preferred
to go out the back door. When he left, she started to secure the door again and
noticed the chain was broken. There were scratches on the door by the lock.

She woke her roommate and told her what
had happened.

Mr. Furniss asked if Padilla made
any moves to grab her or hold her after he got off the bed; she said no. He
asked if everyone was in good spirits when the men left earlier and she said
yes.

While the jury was deliberating,
Justice Cooke asked about Padilla’s sureties. Mr. Furniss said two relatives had
each paid $2,500 into the court as bail bond. He said he had spoken to them and
they accepted that the judge ordered the money be forfeited.

After the jury verdicts, he imposed
the seven year sentence for burglary, with three years concurrent for the
indecent assault.

Whether Padilla will be extradited
to serve the sentence depends on whether there is an extradition treaty between
Cayman and Honduras and whether it would be in the public interest to extradite
him. If that decision is made, the request would go through diplomatic channels.

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