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Juror removed from jury in Cotati sexual assault trial

A male juror was dismissed from deliberations in an attempted sexual assault trial Thursday after he acknowledged reading a news account of the trial and said he couldn?t be fair after learning the man faces a life sentence if convicted.

The juror was excused Thursday morning by Judge Gary Medvigy.

The man was in a panel of four other men and seven women deliberating the fate of Jaime Hernandez-Gonzalez, 24, of Occidental, who is charged with assault with the intent to commit sexual assault during a burglary in December 2007.

A conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life with the possibility of parole. In contrast, a violent rape not involving a burglary carries a maximum term of 11 years in prison.

During his trial, Hernandez-Gonzalez didn?t deny sneaking into a Cotati area house, stripping naked and awakening two young women who were sleeping there. He struggled with one woman, managing to remove her pajama bottoms and underwear with one hand, while clutching his clothes in the other.

The woman kicked at him and ran to safety. Hernandez-Gonzalez was arrested nearby in his car. The women weren?t injured in the incident, although one woman slipped and broke her wrist as she fled the house.

Hernandez-Gonzalez?s attorney argued that he didn?t form a plan to sexually assault the woman and that he didn?t succeed in doing anything more than removing the woman?s clothing.

The juror who was dismissed told the judge and attorneys during a hearing Thursday morning that he couldn?t sleep after reading about the possible sentence and that he couldn?t remain fair in his deliberations.

Jurors can also consider lesser charges such as simple assault and attempted rape, which carry sentences of four years or less.

The man was replaced with a female alternate and the entire panel restarted deliberations mid-morning Thursday.

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