Tearful Novato man denies taking part in 2018 Sonoma County abduction, rape
One of two North Bay men on trial — accused of abducting a woman waiting for a rideshare after a night out in San Francisco and raping her after driving her to Sonoma County — told jurors Thursday that he did nothing to hurt the woman.
Fredi Lopez-Flores said he also could do nothing to help her as his co-defendant, Christian Quintero, held him at gunpoint.
“When I’m saying ...‘Don’t be hitting her’ ... he points a gun at me in my face and says if I don’t drive to Sonoma, he’s going to fire a shot in my face,” Lopez-Flores told jurors as he began to cry. “From that moment, this chaos began.
“No moment with Jane Doe did I kiss her, did I touch her with mal-intent,” he later said.
Testifying in Spanish, as an interpreter told jurors what he said in English, the 37-year-old Novato man said Quintero brought a woman into his car and began beating her in the early hours of April 14, 2018.
The woman, referred to in court only as Jane Doe, testified Tuesday and Wednesday that Quintero beat her the entirety of the drive north to Sonoma and that both men violently raped her when they got there.
Lopez-Flores is charged with 17 felonies and 47 enhancements, while Quintero, 27, of Sonoma is charged with 21 felonies and 24 sentencing enhancements.
If convicted, they each could be sentenced to life in prison.
Prosecutors have contended that both men are responsible for the gruesome abduction, assault and rape of the San Francisco woman who was waiting for an Uber to take her to her Richmond District home before the men forced her into their vehicle.
Lopez-Flores and Quintero have pleaded not guilty. Their defense attorneys have argued that their accuser’s drunken state, lapses in memory and failure to identify them in photo lineups all prove their clients are innocent.
Lopez-Flores followed up his testimony from Wednesday, in which he told jurors that he drove Quintero down to San Francisco as a favor, and that Quintero had picked up a woman he said was his girlfriend before they headed back to Quintero’s home in Sonoma.
Under questioning from his attorney, Gabriel Quinnan, Lopez-Flores denied abusing or violating the woman.
Quintero, he said, beat the woman in the back of his car as he drove. When he protested, Lopez-Flores said, the Sonoma man pulled out a gun and threatened him with it.
Though he was afraid, Lopez-Flores said he tried to drive by places in Marin County he knew police patrol cars were regularly stationed. He said he also stopped in the middle of the freeway by a familiar speed trap in San Rafael, to no avail.
He told jurors that upon arriving in Sonoma, he parked in a shopping plaza under a security camera to show, “I wasn’t in agreement with what was happening.”
Lopez-Flores admitted that after Quintero ordered him to go get condoms, he left the two in the car and walked to a Chevron, where he bought coffee and cigarettes. He returned minutes later and bought condoms, according to court testimony.
When he returned to his car, Quintero was nude, he said. He got into the backseat to try to help the woman, who also was naked. She got out of the car and he handed her her clothes, he said. Then he drove away, he said, without Quintero.
Despite the woman adamantly maintaining that he too raped her, Lopez-Flores said, “At no point did I have the intention of touching her body parts, her private parts.”
A biological analysis expert testified earlier in the week that Lopez-Flores was a likely match in sperm samples recovered from the victim’s clothing, though less likely than Quintero.
Lopez-Flores called the incident “traumatic.”
"My mind was filled with fear because I had a sister who had also been raped,“ he said, tearfully. ”My mind was thinking of Jane Doe, my sister. I have a son. I’m not the father, but I adopted him because his father was killed by gang members.“
However, in cross-examination, the prosecution pushed back, pressing him on why he didn’t help the victim who reminded him of his sister so much.
“You got out of the car knowing Quintero was beating and strangling Jane Doe, correct?” Deputy District Attorney Matthew Hubley asked him. “You got out of the car knowing she was begging you for help. You got out of that car knowing Quintero wanted to kill Jane Doe.”
Lopez-Flores said that he was afraid of Quintero and his gun.
He contended that the man had further threatened him while they were both in jail. Lopez-Flores said Quintero threatened to kill him, if he spoke out.
When asked why, then, he was testifying in court, he answered, “Because I have my son. It’s not possible due to a crazy psychopath that I’m locked up.”
Hubley, though, doubted the truth of Lopez-Flores’ testimony.
He pointed to multiple statements Lopez-Flores gave a Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office detective following his arrest nearly four years ago that contradicted what he said in court Thursday.
The inconsistencies included that he originally said Quintero did not have a gun and told authorities he did not get in the car with the victim after returning with condoms.
The prosecution rested its case on Wednesday after the victim’s testimony, and both defense attorneys followed suit Thursday afternoon after Lopez-Flores’s lengthy testimony.
The jury will return next Tuesday for instructions and opposing counsels’ closing arguments before they begin deliberating.
Quintero did not testify. His attorney, Nicholas Sandler, said he was invoking his right to remain silent.
You can reach Staff Writer Emily Wilder at 707-521-5337 or email@example.com. On Twitter @vv1lder.