A Bermuda Dunes man was convicted Thursday of raping a developmentally disabled woman.
An Indio jury on Thursday convicted Gabriel Anthony Ortiz, 27, of sexually assaulting the then 20-year-old woman, identified only as Jane Doe, who investigators say “functions at the competency of a 12-year-old girl,” according to court documents.
She suffers from cerebral palsy and other medical conditions according to an arrest warrant declaration, which states investigators “recognized the victim did not possess the cognitive abilities of adults her age and had the mannerisms of a pre-adolescent child.”
The Riverside County District Attorney’s office charged Ortiz with one felony count each of rape on a person unable to consent and oral copulation on a person unable to consent, and on Thursday, an Indio jury found him to be guilty of the charges.
Ortiz is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 18 and is being held without bail at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio.
During closing arguments at the Larson Justice Center on Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Amity Armes told jurors Ortiz “violated the victim’s right to choose when to have that first sexual experience.”
Armes argued that the victim’s mental age of around 10-12 years old meant that she was unable to legally consent and that the defendant should have rightfully known that.
Armes asserted that the victim’s inability to form complete sentences stripped her of her ability to express herself at that time.
Ortiz’s attorney, Joseph Cavanaugh, contended that the victim was not properly tested for mental competency, and thus her mental age was only speculative.
“Why does the prosecution get to decide who is smart enough for sex,” Cavanaugh said.
Cavanaugh argued that a lack of proper mental testing meant a reasonable doubt existed as to whether or not consent was present, and thus Ortiz should be acquitted.
Sheriff’s deputies were contacted by staff at Eisenhower Medical Center in January 2018 and spoke with the victim, who told investigators the assault happened the previous night at Ortiz’s apartment, the arrest warrant declaration states.
Ortiz was arrested about a week later for an unrelated crime, and admitted kissing the victim, but said she initiated all other sexual contact.