A jury trial for a man facing two sexual assault cases in 1st District Court was struck from the court’s calendar on Monday.
Raymond Andrew Castaneda, 23, appeared before the court for a pretrial conference on Monday via video conference call from the Cache County Jail.
During the conference, Judge Brandon Maynard canceled the three-day jury trial set to begin on Jan. 20. Defense counsel voiced concern during the hearing about potential constitutional rights violations in the case due to the lack of available jury trials in Utah Courts.
In case filed first, Castaneda faces first-degree aggravated kidnapping, second-degree forcible sexual abuse and third-degree aggravated assault. In the second case he faces first-degree counts of rape, aggravated kidnapping and forcible sodomy in addition to a second-degree aggravated assault charge.
Castaneda has been held without bail since October 2019, and jury trials and in-person hearings for his cases have been continued for various reasons. Most recently, Castaneda’s case — as well as many others — has been affected by the current restrictions on court proceedings in the State of Utah.
In-person hearings, including jury trials, have been on hold per an administrative order from the Utah Supreme Court due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cache County courts have been in a “red” phase since September after a brief period in “yellow.”
Utah Courts Spokesman Geoffrey Fattah told The Herald Journal the court’s color phase operations are tied to the state’s COVID transmission risk index.
“At this point all districts have put into place the necessary safety measures to hold in-person hearings once they return to Yellow,” Fattah said. “The Judicial Council is ready to move any county into Yellow automatically once their transmission index is low.”
As of Dec. 12, only Rich, Daggett, Piute and Wayne counties are operating in the yellow phase.
Police allege Castaneda slapped, strangled and sexually assaulted the first victim in his car in June 2019. After being arrested and posting bail in the initial matter, Castaneda was charged in a second case after a separate alleged victim contacted police. An affidavit filed with the court states that Castaneda struck and strangled unconscious the second victim during a sexual assault a day prior to assaulting the first alleged victim.