Victim's hearing uncertain in Great Barrington rape

Friday November 16, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A prosecutor wants a hearing so that the victim of a series of rapes can tell the court how it has affected her life. But no one’s quite sure if such a hearing can be held since the convicted rapist fled to Mexico during his trial and hasn’t come back.

A jury convicted Ciro Reyes-Palma in absentia, but the 41-year-old Great Barrington man cannot be sentenced unless he’s present.

Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Rachael Eramo said the proceeding would include most of what takes place during a sentencing hearing, short of actually sentencing Reyes-Palma.

The now 15-year-old victim would read her statement in court to preserve the record in case Reyes-Palma isn’t apprehended for several years, and the DA’s office would present its sentencing recommendations, according to Eramo.

On Thursday in Berkshire Superior Court, Eramo asked Judge John A. Agostini to consider allowing the hearing.

Reyes-Palma’s attorney, Jill Sheldon, told Agostini that such a hearing would be "a clear violation of my client’s due process rights."

She said she couldn’t argue her client’s sentencing request without his input.

According to Eramo, her office is "actively searching for" Reyes-Palma and is working with federal officials in the hunt for the fugitive.

Police believe Reyes-Palma, who was out on $10,000 bail, fled to New York City and took a flight to Mexico City on Oct. 27. He had been in the midst of a trial for molesting a girl in Great Barrington over the course of three years, beginning in the spring of 2009.

The trial continued without him and a jury convicted him in his absence on 11 charges: 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.

"We have some leads," Eramo told the judge on Thursday, but added that the possibility existed that it could be years before the defendant was brought to justice.

She said that the victim had the legal right to present an "impact statement" to the court.

The judge said he had never come across this type of request and would take it under advisement. He suggested that the prosecutor might be able to preserve the victim’s statement via video recording or in written form, bypassing a court proceeding.

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