PITTSFIELD -- Ciro Reyes-Palma, the 41-year-old man on trial for child rape, has fled to Mexico, according to authorities, but that didn’t stop a jury from convicting him Wednesday in his absence.
A Berkshire Superior Court jury found Reyes-Palma guilty of all 11 charges he was facing.
Reyes-Palma, who had been out on $10,000 bail, didn’t show up in court on Monday when his trial resumed after the weekend.
Great Barrington Police Investigator Joseph O’Brien said Reyes-Palma took a flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Mexico City on Saturday morning. The information came from federal investigators who determined Reyes-Palma’s passport had been used at the airport, said O’Brien. Reyes-Palma is originally from Mexico and still has ties to the country.
Reyes-Palma’s car was located in Amenia, N.Y., and he had last been seen in Great Barrington on Friday, according to O’Brien. Police believe he drove to New York state and took an Amtrak train down to New York City.
Reyes-Palma’s attorney, Jill Sheldon, told the court this wasn’t "proof positive" her client had fled, since there was no video of photographs showing Reyes-Palma at the airport. She said he may have gone to Queens, N.Y. to visit his brother and got stuck there during the hurricane.
Meanwhile, the trial went on without Reyes-Palma after Judge John A. Agostini decided the defendant had willfully fled.
Reyes-Palma had been on trial for a week on 11 charges, including four counts of child rape with force, six counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under 14, and a single count of assault on a child with the intent to rape. The defendant molested a young girl in Great Barrington over the course of three years, beginning in the spring of 2009, according to police. The victim is now 15.
On Friday, Reyes-Palma took the stand in his own defense and denied any wrongdoing. But that testimony was stricken by the court on Wednesday because he fled before prosecutor Rachael Eramo had a chance to cross-examine him.
The case continued Wed nesday with final summations from Sheldon and Eramo.
Sheldon told the jury that there were many inconsistencies in the testimony of the prosecution’s witnesses and that the DNA evidence in the case was inconclusive. The alleged victim, she said, had made the allegations against her client during a tumultuous time in her life.
Eramo said the victim told the truth and that all witness testimony showed Reyes-Palma had committed the crimes. The prosecutor told the jury that if all these witnesses had lied, it was "the worst conspiracy of all time."
The only "reasonable conclusion" that could be drawn from the DNA evidence was that a rape had occurred, said the prosecutor.
A jury of four men and eight women deliberated for about four hours before returning guilty verdicts on all counts.
Because Reyes-Palma was not present, no sentence was handed down in the case. According to the state sentencing guidelines, a defendant with no record or a minimal record, as in this case, could be sentenced to between eight and 12 years on a single rape of a child with force charge.
A Berkshire Superior Court default warrant has been issued for Reyes-Palma. It was not clear on Wednesday if authorities here would pursue bringing the man back from Mexico.
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