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Mendoza no longer seeking jury trial, sentence reduction in 2006 gang rape
By Preston Knightfirstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- A man who had sought to have his eight-year prison sentence for aggravated sexual battery and gang participation vacated withdrew the motion Wednesday afternoon in Shenandoah County Circuit Court.
Antonio Mendoza, 22, formerly of Alexandria, was sentenced as part of a plea agreement in October on the two charges in relation to his involvement at a 2006 party in Woodstock where two 15-year-old girls were raped.
Through his attorney in November, he argued that special prosecutor Phil Figura had proffered witness testimony from a special grand jury that was supposed to be protected by immunity. Citing that as grounds to set aside the verdict, Mendoza then sought a jury trial.
On Wednesday, the defendant backed off that position, apparently realizing that he ran the risk of lengthening his prison time if he went in front of a jury. Before withdrawing the motion, Mendoza told Judge Dennis L. Hupp that he did think that his immunity was used against him.
The part of the proffer that seemed to be in dispute concerned Mendoza taking, or almost dragging, his victim to a van, and while there were no eyewitnesses to the assault, the vehicle was seen shaking and the defendant stated he had relations with her and she was naked, Figura said. He said Mendoza's version of events was later questioned, but even if that particular piece of evidence was redacted, the remaining proffer was sufficient.
Hupp said that part of the proffer was not used to find Mendoza guilty, and he did not understand why the defendant, who originally was charged with rape, wanted to risk his fate by trying the case over, especially seeing the penalties co-defendants in the case have received.
"He got a less severe sentence," Hupp said.
Of the four other men charged in the case, two have been sentenced -- one received 20 years to serve for two rapes, gang participation and forcible sodomy, and another 18 years to serve for rape, sodomy and gang participation.