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Lawyers differ on sex assault suspect's intent

A young woman awakens after 3 a.m. in her bedroom with a naked man standing beside her bed. She screams. They tussle. The man ? holding his clothing in one hand ? takes off her pajama bottoms.

There is no other reasonable explanation for what the man intended, prosecutor Tashawn Sanders told jurors in the man?s trial Wednesday, except that he was trying to sexually assault her.

On the contrary, argued Jaime Hernandez-Gonzalez?s attorney, Bill Marioni. The fact that Hernandez-Gonzalez had no plan, no weapon, no restraints and severely restricted his movements by hanging onto his wad of clothes shows he didn?t form the legal intent to commit a sex crime.

The difference is crucial for the young man, who has no criminal record.

Hernandez-Gonzalez, 24, of Occidental is facing a life prison sentence if convicted of the primary charge against him: assault with the intent to commit a sex crime during a burglary. He is also charged with two misdemeanors of evading and resisting police during his arrest.

Jurors can consider lesser charges such as simple assault and attempted rape, which carry sentences of four years or less. In contrast, a completed rape with serious injury to the victim carries a maximum term of 11 years in prison.

Hernandez-Gonzalez is charged with a crime for which punishment was lengthened as a result of the 2006 California ballot initiative dubbed Jessica?s Law that revamped sex-crime prosecutions. The crime now carries a mandatory life sentence, with the possibility of parole.

The attorneys presented their opposing theories to jurors during closing arguments Tuesday, capping a weeklong trial before Judge Gary Medvigy.

Hernandez-Gonzalez is accused of sneaking into a rural Cotati-area home on Dec. 22, 2007, and trying to sexually assault a 21-year-old female resident as she and a 20-year-old friend slept. Neither woman was hurt in the incident.

During testimony last week, the woman, identified in court only as Jane Doe, and her friend both identified Hernandez-Gonzalez as the stranger they saw standing naked in their upstairs bedroom, grasping a wad of clothes in one hand.


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