Men contest charges in Washington County kidnapping, rape
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Two Mexican roofers charged with kidnapping and raping a mentally disabled woman in Washington County say the sex was consensual and that she showed no signs of being mentally challenged.
Jesus Tapia, 37, and Elmer Ramirez, 44, both of whom are accused of being in the U.S. illegally, are charged with abducting the 19-year-old woman from outside her home in Wheeling, W.Va., on July 7 and raping her at Mr. Tapia's residence on Wylie Avenue in Washington.
The FBI said the two men held her captive until July 11, then returned her to her Wheeling neighborhood.
In court papers filed Monday, lawyers for both men challenged the government's case and demanded that federal prosecutors present evidence to support their contention that the woman was raped.
In addition, Mr. Tapia's public defender argued that his client's statement to an FBI agent Aug. 31 should be suppressed because he wasn't read his Miranda rights immediately.
The FBI and state police said Mr. Tapia and Mr. Ramirez were circling the Elm Grove neighborhood in Wheeling when they abducted the woman, whom the Post-Gazette is not identifying.
But the two men said they had attended a party in Wheeling and offered her a ride after spotting her walking along the interstate in Pennsylvania. They took her to Mr. Tapia's apartment and said she went with them willingly.
"The accuser stayed with Mr. Tapia for a few days, went out to eat, and socialized with the other people in the apartment building," wrote L. Richard Walker, Mr. Tapia's federal public defender, in a motion to dismiss the indictment. "The sex, if any, was consensual. What's more, nobody perceived that the accuser suffered from a condition that would render her somehow incompetent."
When the men learned from a TV news report that a search party was looking for the woman, they said they drove her back to Wheeling.
Agents and police tracked Mr. Tapia to the home of Tanya Silcott in Houston, Washington County, and took him to the state police barracks in Washington for an interview.
At that point, Mr. Walker said, authorities should have read him his rights. Instead, he said, an FBI agent who conducted the interview called an assistant U.S. attorney and then took Mr. Tapia into custody, only then reading him his rights in English and Spanish.
Beyond the validity of the statement, the woman's mental abilities promise to complicate the rape allegation and the events leading up to it.
She said the two men who abducted her did not speak fluent English, but she could not describe them, their car or where they went. She said she saw the "Welcome to Pennsylvania" sign on the interstate, but she didn't know what city she was in.
The woman also denied sexual activity when first questioned by Wheeling police. But in a subsequent forensic interview at a child advocacy center, which was attended by the FBI, she said both men forced themselves on her.
The two men are charged with coercion of a female, conspiracy and kidnapping, in addition to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. that relates to their immigration status.
Both face deportation after the kidnapping charges are resolved.
Mr. Tapia told the FBI he had walked across the U.S. border from Mexico 18 years ago and could produce no passport or visa. Agents said Mr. Ramirez is also an illegal alien and was on his way to Mexico when he was arrested last month in Ohio.
First Published November 7, 2012 12:00 am