Lewis and Clark County District Judge Mike Menahan declared a mistrial Tuesday in the case of a Helena man charged with rape after a jury remained deadlocked following nearly five hours of deliberations.
Joel Cruz Padilla, 52, was on trial for felony sexual intercourse without consent stemming from an incident last summer. On June 30, 2018, prosecutors alleged that an intoxicated Padilla entered a 23-year-old woman’s home and fondled her before the alleged victim, fearful for the safety of her child, engaged in sexual activities with him.
Following the incident, the woman immediately contacted family and friends saying she had been raped who in turn contacted authorities. Her grandmother testified that the woman was nearly incoherent during the phone call and clearly distraught when they saw each other in person.
Padilla, who lived near the alleged victim, was quickly identified and arrested at his home without incident that night.
The woman testified to feeling intimidated by Padilla, that he was muscular, tattooed and appeared “gangster.” Padilla, who appeared intoxicated, had followed her into her home and became sexually aggressive, she said. She told the court that although a door was nearby, she was barefoot and did not believe she could flee to safety with her child. She engaged in some sexual activities with him out of fear that he would hurt her or her child, she said.
Padilla testified that the encounter was entirely consensual. They had met earlier in the day at a barbeque and had a cordial conversation that included her inviting him to stop by. Padilla said he consumed a total of about five beers when he went by her apartment and met her outside smoking a cigarette and asked her for one.
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Padilla testified that he went inside to put the cigarette out in the sink and the alleged victim followed him inside. He said at that point the woman became the aggressor and willingly engaged in various sexual acts with him. He further testified that thoughts of his fiancée caused him to become overwhelmed with guilt and he left.
The woman did not suffer any bruising or other injuries during the incident, but prosecutors noted that injuries or resistance by a victim is not necessary to display a lack of consent.
Public defender Steven Scott argued that Padilla was innocent of the accusations. The state had not met its burden of proof and Padilla freely complied with police and displayed the actions of a man with nothing to hide, he told the jury.
The 12-member jury began deliberating at noon. Shortly before 5 p.m., court reconvened and Menahan said that a note from the jury indicated it had appeared to reach an impasse with seven guilty and five not guilty. After jurors indicated further deliberations would likely not yield a different result, he declared a mistrial.
Lewis and Clark County Attorney Leo Gallagher declined Menahan’s offer of time to consider how the state would proceed, immediately indicating that he planned to re-try Padilla and asking for a new trial date.
The new trial is scheduled for April 2020.