URBANA — The Champaign County state's attorney's office Friday dismissed rape and kidnapping charges against three men after their alleged victim refused to return from China to testify against them.
Judge Tom Difanis was scheduled to hear pretrial motions in the cases of Alejandro Campos-Alvarez, 26, and Alfredo Campos-Alvarez, 24, who last lived in Urbana, and Christian Jaimes-Rodriguez, 20, of Champaign. But Assistant State's Attorney Stephanie Weber dismissed the charges instead.
"Without the testimony of a victim, we don't have a provable case," said First Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler.
The three defendants — and two others who were never arrested — were all charged with five counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault alleging different sex acts and one count of aggravated kidnapping in connection with the alleged gang rape of the woman on Sept. 23, 2012.
Champaign police learned that the 24-year-old University of Illinois student, who had been in the community only a few weeks, was intoxicated at the Chester Street bar in Champaign. Although she went there with friends, she became separated from them. One of the men then reportedly walked her off the dance floor to a waiting vehicle and drove the woman to an address on Queens Way in Champaign where four men allegedly took turns having sex with her as she was passed out. A fifth man was present.
The woman awakened during the assault by the fourth man and was able to convince the men to take her back to the campus apartment of a friend.
It took almost 11 months of work before police had collected enough evidence for the state to file the charges. The cases of the three men who had been in custody kept getting continued at Weber's request, mostly for continued analysis of DNA.
On Friday, as Difanis took the bench to hear a motion to suppress the statements that Jaimes-Rodriguez gave to Champaign police, Weber dismissed the charges against the three men, explaining the status of her victim.
"She said she wasn't coming back to assist in the prosecution. Efforts were made to convince her to come back," said Weber, including pleas from her friends and others in the international community at the UI. "We came to the conclusion that any further effort to do that would not be fruitful. I'm very, very disappointed."
Jaimes-Rodriguez and Alejandro Campos-Alvarez were then taken into custody Friday by federal Homeland Security agents to face deportation proceedings. Weber said it was her understanding that they were in the county illegally, while Alfredo Campos-Alvarez was here legally. He was released.
Even though the suppression hearing didn't go forward, Difanis felt compelled to put on the record that he would have not have allowed a jury to hear the statement on the basis that Jaimes-Rodriguez could not understand what was being asked of him during an interview with Champaign police.
Difanis listened to and reviewed the transcript of an interview between Jaimes-Rodriguez and Detective Robb Morris that was translated by Officer Brandon Thomas, one of a handful of Champaign officers who speaks Spanish.
In the motion, Lerner said his client, who had only an eighth grade education, "did not recognize the Spanish that Brandon Thomas was speaking," including the explanation of his rights.