California lawmaker to reintroduce rape bill after court overturns rape conviction

6:34 PM, Jan 4, 2013   |    comments
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By Michael Winter
USA Today

A California lawmaker says he plans to reintroduce a bill next week to expand a rape law that would include cases where a perpetrator tricks a victim into having sex by impersonating their partner.

Assem. Katcho Achadjian, R-San Luis Obispo, said Friday he was outraged by an appellate court ruling that relied on an arcane law to reverse a rape conviction.

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On Thursday, the appeals court cited the 1872 state law, which does not explicitly protect unmarried rape victims from attackers pretending to be a boyfriend, and overturned a man's conviction for having sex with a sleeping woman.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles ordered a new trial for Julio Morales, who was convicted of raping a friend's 18-year-old sister in Cerritos after a party in February 2009. He was sentenced to three years in prison.

Here's how the court's opinion, which includes details of the encounter, framed the case:

A man enters the dark bedroom of an unmarried woman after seeing her boyfriend leave late at night, and has sexual intercourse with the woman while pretending to be the boyfriend. Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.

Morales' first trial ended in a hung jury. Jurors in the second trial convicted him of rape of an unconscious person after prosecutors told them they could find him guilty under two conditions: either the victim was sleeping, unconscious or not able to refuse sex, or else the attacker misled her or lied about his identify. Under California law, however, impersonation applies only if a woman is married.

PREVIOUS STORY: Judge: Law won't protect unmarried victims in rape

The three-judge appellate panel reversed the conviction, saying it "cannot discern from this record whether the jury convicted defendant on the correct or incorrect theory."

The opinion states that the law allows the "continued existence of a separate provision that expressly makes sexual intercourse by impersonation a rape, albeit only when the victim is married and the perpetrator impersonates the victim's spouse."

"Therefore, we reluctantly hold that a person who accomplishes sexual intercourse by impersonating someone other than a married victim?s spouse is not guilty of the crime of rape of an unconscious person" under a provision of state law, Justice Thomas Willhite wrote for the panel.

The justices noted that state courts "have been inconsistent when characterizing sex crimes involving impersonation" and that "there appears to be little discussion in the legislative history" about what the Legislature really intended.

Achadjian said he would reintroduce the legislation that would protect unmarried women or men who do not live together.

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"Californians are justifiably outraged by this court ruling, and it is important that the Legislature join together to close whatever loopholes may exist in the law and uphold justice for rape victims," Achadjian said in a news release.

The state Assembly passed his measure last year, but it died in the Senate Public Safety Committee.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

USA Today and The Associated Press

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