In a move the judge called “highly unusual,” a man on trial for alleged kidnapping and sexual assault brought the proceedings to a screeching halt by pleading guilty to the charges mid-trial.
The jury trial of Anthony Raymond Mendiola Camacho was on its third day yesterday and the prosecution only had two more witnesses left to call when his lawyer, Stephen Woodruff, told the court that his client has decided to plead guilty.
Superior Court associate judge Kenneth L. Govendo, who was presiding over the trial, expressed surprise, describing the move as “highly unusual.” Govendo ordered a brief recess to allow Woodruff and assistant attorney general Shelli Neal to further discuss this “unique development.”
When the hearing resumed, the 38-year-old Camacho pleaded guilty to kidnapping, sexual assault in the first degree, attempted sexual assault in the first degree, and disturbing the peace.
Neal agreed to dismiss the charges of false arrest, and indecent exposure in the second degree.
Given Camacho’s previous felony convictions, Neal said that he faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison for kidnapping and a minimum mandatory of 15 years for sexual assault in the first degree.
Camacho was remanded into the custody of the Department of Corrections.
The victim, who was sitting in the gallery with her mother, was in tears when Camacho pleaded guilty. She burst into tears outside the courtroom after the hearing and tightly hugged Neal.
In an interview after the hearing, Woodruff said during the course of the trial, decisions and evaluations had to be made that should have been made months earlier.
“But we didn’t have the information that would have made that possible. The result was that we decided that it was better to take responsibility for the offense than to force the trial to go all the way to the end and then have the jury verdict that would probably go against the defendant,” Woodruff said.
He said they were hampered in their preparation and pretrial decisions because they weren’t supplied with all of the information that the government had in connection with their investigation.
Neal said that Camacho’s decision to plead guilty is a testament to the officers’ fine work as “there’s a lot of evidence in this case-a ton of photos and items” that were recovered from the crime scene. “I think the proof was going our way and that concerned the defendant,” she said. “It’s a pretty good case, plus the defendant has a serious history.”
Police said Camacho, a convicted sex offender, asked the victim to bring him to a secluded old radar station area in As Matuis where he threatened to kill her before trying to rape her inside her car on Feb. 23, 2011.
The victim managed to escape after she hit him in the left eye with the car key, forcing him to get off the vehicle and giving her the chance to drive off.