A man accused of sexually assaulting two women in two consecutive days is set to have a jury trial in the new year.
During an evidentiary hearing in 1st District Court on Tuesday, a three-day jury trial for Raymond Andrew Castaneda, 23, was set to begin on Jan. 20.
Tuesday’s hearing was intended to present testimony relevant to the prosecution’s doctrine of chances motion. However, a necessary witness for the hearing did not appear and could not be located by prosecutors. Subsequently, Cache County prosecutor Dane Murray requested to withdraw the motion — meaning prosecutors cannot use evidence interchangeably in both cases.
After the hearing, Murray told The Herald Journal the situation was “disappointing,” but he was wasn’t concerned about the upcoming trial. Murray said subpoenas are not suggestions and ignoring one can result in repercussions, but punitive measures in this instance were unlikely.
“It happens more often than you’d think,” Murray said. “I don’t know the circumstances” for the absence.
The first sexual assault case filed against Castaneda is alleged to have happened on June 15, 2019. He faces single counts of first-degree aggravated kidnapping, second-degree forcible sexual abuse and third-degree aggravated assault. Police allege Castaneda slapped, strangled and sexually assaulted the victim in his car.
After Castaneda posted bail in the initial case, a second person contacted police with allegations of being sexually assaulted the day before the first alleged victim. An affidavit filed with the court states that Castaneda “mentally, physically and sexually abused” the alleged victim after they met on a dating app. Police wrote the alleged victim was hit and strangled unconscious by Castaneda during sex. He was charged with three first-degree felonies — rape, aggravated kidnapping and forcible sodomy — and second-degree aggravated assault.
Castaneda was booked into the Cache County Jail on Oct. 26, 2019, and is currently being held without bail.
Defense attorney Wayne Caldwell recently filed motions to dismiss both cases due to constitutional rights violations. The motions state Castaneda’s right to a speedy trial has been violated and lengthy delays have “irreparably skewed the fairness” of the cases.
Caldwell told The Herald Journal there’s a “coercive nature” to being held on a no-bail status without access to jury trials due to COVID-19 restrictions in the courts. For Caldwell, incarcerated defendants unable to set a jury trial may feel their only recourse is to plead guilty if only to move their cases forward, which could result in appeal issues in the future.
“I just hope that people realize that this is going on,” Caldwell said. “A basic constitutional right has been taken away from us.”
But defendants aren’t the only ones affected by delays in the courts.
“I know for a fact it’s very frustrating for victims,” Murray said, adding that victims of crimes also desire a resolution to cases. “It helps the victims to move on.”
Multiple upcoming trials in the 1st District have been cancelled and reset for the new year. Currently in the State of Utah, one trial is set to move forward — a seven-day jury trial for an alleged murder in Duchesne County set to begin on Sept. 30. Judge Brian Cannell stated in court this week that court administrators were monitoring the case in the 8th District to see how jury trials may be conducted in the future.
“We’re just interested in how it goes,” said 1st District Court Executive Brett Folkman. “We’re all kind of waiting to learn from them.”
Folkman said the court would adhere to the risk plan while using social distancing measures and other means to protect selected jurors. However, Folkman and Caldwell indicated the 1st District could be moved back to the red phase of the State of Utah Judiciary Risk Phase Response Plan which would restrict in-person hearings and jury trials.
The 1st District was moved to the yellow phase in August.