By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Charges dismissed in Linfield rape case

At the victim's request, the Yamhill County District Attorney's Office has dismissed all charges against a former Linfield College student who was accused in September 2014 of sexually assaulting a fellow student in a dormitory room.

Diego Garza, 21, was indicted by a grand jury on one count each of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual abuse, along with two counts each of first-degree sodomy and first-degree unlawful sexual penetration.

The charges — all Class A or B felonies, the most serious under Oregon law — carried the potential for lengthy mandatory-minimum prison terms under Measure 11.

Garza was lodged in the county jail on $250,000 bail initially. He secured his release about a week later by posting the required 10 percent.

He was expelled from school and barred from having any contact with the victim. Circuit Judge Ronald Stone authorized his return to his mother's home in Rancho Cucamonga, California, to await disposition.

Judge Cynthia Easterday had been scheduled to try the case over a two-week period starting Monday, Jan. 25.

The trial was removed from the docket after Deputy District Attorney Amanda Dresen filed a motion for dismissal and Judge John Collins signed off.

The motion noted: "The victim has requested that the matter be dismissed and public interest factors do not exist to warrant overriding that request."

District Attorney Brad Berry said, "Sexual assault cases are difficult for the victim when they are going to trial."

This was the victim's call to make, according to Berry.

"As we do with most cases, we have issues come up, that are going to be brought up at trial," he said. "Those are discussed with the victim. Explanations are given. This victim was represented by counsel. We have detailed discussions with the attorney about these issues."

Berry said the victim was represented by McMinnville attorneys Cynthia Kaufman-Noble and Carol Fredrick. He said they indicated she was not prepared to proceed to trial.

According to a probable cause affidavit submitted by McMinnville police:

Police received a call the morning of Sept. 13 from the Yamhill Communications Agency regarding an alleged sex crime. A nurse at the Willamette Valley Medical Center told the agency a sexual assault evidence kit had been prepared and was awaiting pickup.

The nurse said the incident had occurred on the Linfield campus. She said the victim had reported it to the college's Public Safety Office, but indicated she was not willing to speak to detectives at that point.

Two days later, an officer received a call from a counselor at Henderson House, which operates a battered women's shelter, indicating the victim wanted was ready to speak to an officer. Contact was made and an interview was scheduled.

The woman said she had been sexually assaulted in a unit of the Hewlett-Packard Apartments. She identified Garza as the assailant.

She described a series of events that allegedly included Garza holding her against here will in his bedroom, picking her up and throwing her onto a bed, holding her down and proceeding to rape and sodomize her.

She described it as a violent attack that left her both emotionally and physically scarred. She said she was still experiencing pain and other after-effects two days later.

Detective Bill Christensen was present when the victim initiated a recorded phone conversation with Garza as part of the police investigation.

She asked him what he was thinking. He told her he was not thinking clearly because he was "very drunk."

He went on to say he felt bad about what had happened. He said he didn't intend to hurt her.

She asked him if he remembered her trying to make him stop and pushing him away. He said he only remembered her asking him to stop once. And he did stop at that point, he said.

"Although the victim does not control the prosecution of a case, my office and the way I run my office is very victim-centric," Berry said. "We involve the victims as much as possible. We listen to their thoughts and desires."

Berry said sexual assault is inherently difficult to prove. He said "private things" are often raised at trial.

"You not only have someone who is a victim, but one who will likely be further traumatized at trial," Berry said. "When we weigh everything, and have a victim who would rather not proceed to trial, we can't compel a victim to testify."

While many cases do not go to trial, a higher percentage of sexual assault cases are tried, according to Berry. He characterized those as being evidentiary complicated.

Garza was represented by Eugene attorney Andrew Coit. He could not be reached for comment.




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