EXCLUSIVE: Jurors in Hackensack today convicted a Bergenfield day laborer of sexually assaulting three women in Dumont and Englewood on the street in a series of incidents in July and August 2012 that alarmed the community.
Jurors needed a little over six hours, including lunch, to find 23-year-old Alexis Sanchez-Medina (photo, above) guilty of sexual assault, criminal sexual contact and four other counts following a one-week trial.
However, they acquitted him of two major charges of second-degree attempted sexual assault and attempted sexual penetration.
Sanchez-Medina wiped his face with his hand as the jury foreman read the verdict.
Presiding Superior Court Judge Liliana DeAvila-Silbeli set a tentative Jan. 24 sentencing date, provided that Sanchez-Medina has completed an evaluation at the Adult Diagnostic Treatment Center in Avenel.
“The state is very satisfied, particularly given the climate of fear that these crimes caused throughout the community,” Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Kristin DeMarco said.
Meanwhile, public defender Gail Hargrove said that she still believes in her client’s innocence. In October, she said, Dumont police issued an alert for a suspect with “an identical description” as the one used to arrest him.
Testifying in his own behalf, Sanchez-Medina told jurors yesterday that authorities got the wrong man, and that he confessed after being picked up the night of the spree only so he could go to work.
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Count 1: Not guilty of second-degree attempted criminal penetration of a woman in Englewood on July 27, 2012. Guilty of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact in that case.
Count 2: Guilty of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact involving the same woman.
Count 3: Guilty of second-degree attempted sexual assault and attempted sexual penetration of a woman Aug. 9 in Englewood.
Count 4: Guilty of fourth-degree criminal sexual contact involving the same Englewood woman.
Count 5: Not guilty of second-degree attempted sexual assault of a woman Aug. 10 in Dumont. Guilty of simple assault.
Count 6: Guilty of second-degree sexual assault involving the same woman.
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A Honduran immigrant, Sanchez-Medina was familiar with the area where the women were attacked, DeMarco said during closing arguments following his testimony yesterday. “Make no mistake,” she told jurors. “All of the evidence points to the defendant.”
A young Englewood mother testified during the trial that she was walking in town with her 3-year-old son one night when she saw Sanchez-Medina sitting with other men outside a flower shop.
He got on a bicycle and “circled” her, blowing kisses and speaking in Spanish, she said.
He had “distinctive” features,the woman said, including curly hair, a pony tail and a particular shape to his eyes.
As he rode by, she told jurors, he smacked her and grabbed her buttocks.
The frightened woman said she told her little boy: “Whatever happens, just run.”
Coming around for another pass, Sanchez-Medina knocked her down before taking off on the bicycle, the woman said.
She told jurors she later saw a TV report about women being attacked, so she contacted police. Then she picked Sanchez-Medina from a photo lineup.
“I saw in my mind what he looked like, the man who attacked me,” she testified.
The man in the photo didn’t have a ponytail, she said, but she told police: “That’s him. I am 100% sure.”
Another Englewood woman testified that she noticed someone had moved the accordion panels on the air conditioner of her ground-level apartment. When she looked out the window,” she said, she saw “someone with curly hair and a pony tail.”
The next night, the woman told jurors, she went to investigate. That’s when someone grabbed her from behind, forced her to the ground and put his hand down her pants, touching her genitals, she said.
The final attack, fitting a pattern of escalating seriousness, was in Dumont, where a woman taking out her garbage at night was attacked by a man who put his fingers inside her before running into the shadows.
“He has an athletic build, strong, curly wavy hair — all completely similar descriptions, nearly exact in the attacks on these women,” DeMarco told jurors.
Pointing to inconsistencies in Sanchez-Medina’s original statements to police, DeMarco said that he lied about his address even before he knew they were taking him to headquarters for questioning.
“Ladies and gentlemen, there are few things in life of which we can be absolutely certain,” she told jurors. “Beyond a reasonable doubt only means you are firmly convinced.”
Hargrove countered that the inconsistencies were in the testimony of the women, who “made their complaints honestly” but identified different-looking assailants.
One described a light-skinned person, for example, while another said he was dark-skinned, she said.
“And that makes a difference,” the defense attorney said.
“He was in Dumont riding his bike because he was there to run, on a field where he played football,” Hargrove told jurors. “What he told you is what happened – and consistent with what the police said — except for the fact the police consider this to be a confession.
“I say this isn’t a confession.”
She noted that the questioning began at 11:44 p.m. on Aug. 14 and continued until Sanchez-Medina gave a statement at 4:30 a.m.
“When he ultimately found out what he was charged with, he was not only frightened but tired,” she said. “He was responsible for being at work at 4:30 in the morning.
“The job is his life,” Hargrave added. “As he sat in that room, he knew he had a problem because of his immigration status.
”It is very important in your assessment of his statement,” she told jurors. “He believed he had to say what the police told him to say. Analyze those statements from his frame of reference.
STORY / PHOTOS: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter