The case for a Providence man accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old may be heard by a jury as soon as next month.
Richard Royal Cornell, 74, appeared in 1st District Court on Wednesday via video conference from the Cache County Jail. He faces six felonies for incidents alleged to have happened in March of last year: two counts of first-degree forcible sodomy, first-degree attempted forcible sodomy, first-degree object rape and two counts of second-degree forcible sexual abuse.
During Cornell’s appearance, at the request of defense counsel, Judge Brian Cannell tentatively set a three-day jury trial to begin on July 28. A final pretrial conference was set for June 16, and Cannell indicated some details regarding trial procedures would soon be ironed out among the judges.
The trial setting comes on the heels of a recent order from the Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant that moved courts to a “yellow” phase provided their risk response plan had been approved.
Valeria Jimenez, the Public Outreach Coordinator for the Administrative Office of the Courts, said the Management Committee that approves courts’ response plans is comprised of five judges. Courts complete a checklist in conjunction with their plan, Jimenez said, and have to certify the items on the checklist have been completed.
In between hearings on Wednesday, Cannell said the “yellow phase plan” for the Cache County court was approved last year and was actually the first approved in the state. Cache County was in a “yellow” phase for approximately one month in 2020 before being moved back to a “red” phase restricting in-person hearings and jury trials absent exigent circumstances.
Jimenez said a move back to a “red” phase is possible if the Management Committee found it appropriate to protect people in the courthouse. Jimenez said the Management Committee is provided weekly updates on Utah’s COVID-19 transmission index.
“If there is a surge in cases and local and state health partners advise the courts to implement additional health and safety measures, the Judicial Council will take appropriate steps to respond to the increased risk,” Jimenez said.
Durrant’s order prioritizes hearings that can’t be held online and cases involving in-custody defendants; Cornell has been held in jail on a no-bail status since March 2, 2020.
According to an affidavit filed with the court, the alleged victim told Cache County Sheriff’s deputies of a sexual assault that occurred in Providence. Deputies wrote Cornell inappropriately touched the alleged victim, “forcibly removed” their clothing and coerced sexual acts.
During a confrontational phone call, deputies wrote, Cornell apologized and told the victim it never should have happened.
“He told her he had prayed about it and she should … take a shower, and forget it ever happened,” deputies wrote.
When questioned by deputies, Cornell invoked his Miranda rights and declined to speak to law enforcement without his attorney. Deputies wrote a warrant was obtained for Cornell’s DNA and clothing.