Woman Says She Could Go To Jail For Pointing Out Her Rapist 18 Years Ago
(Editors note: this post has been updated for clarity.) Norma Esparza says that she could go to jail for doing nothing more than pointing out a man who had raped her in a bar.
It was 1995, and Esparza was a sophomore in college. Esparza said at a press conference Wednesday that her overbearing boyfriend at the time Gianni Anthony Van demanded that Esparza show him the man she said raped her. The night after her rape, she pointed to Gonzalo Ramirez while she was in a bar. Not long after Esparza pointed him out, he turned up on the side of the road beaten and hacked with a meat cleaver, according to the Associated Press.
In the 18 years since, Van as well as two other suspects, Shannon Gries and Diane Tran, were charged in the case. (Another suspect, Kody Tran, was killed in a shootout with police last year.) Esparza has become a psychology professor at an American University in Geneva. She says that she has cooperated with authorities investigating the case, and up until recently, they told her that she was not the target of the investigation, according to CBS2. She even testified for the case in front of a grand jury.
But now prosecutors are going after Esparza, 39, and they say that they have evidence tying her to Ramirez's killing. She's set to go on trial Thursday for first-degree special circumstances murder in connection with Ramirez's death. She said she's been pressured to plead guilty to a crime she didn't commit or prosecutors will move to have her jailed this week, the AP reports.
"The principle of what they're asking me is to plead guilty to something that they know I am not responsible for," Esparza said during the conference. "It would essentially be a lie."
Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for the Orange County District Attorney, told the Los Angeles Times, "I know she wants to try this case in the media. We look forward to trying this case in court."
Esparza says that Ramirez raped her in her dorm room. She went to a nurse to get a morning-after pill to prevent pregnancy. She told her boyfriend Van, but she told the Times never reported it to authorities—nor did the school nurse advise her to.
Esparza's husband, Jorge Mancillas, told reporters his wife agreed to a sham marriage with then-boyfriend Gianni Van in 1995. The AP reports Esparza was pressured into the union by one of the alleged participants in the murder after police started to investigate Van's role in the violence.
Esparza was arrested in October 2012 when she traveled to the United States. She spent two months in jail before she was released on $300,000 bail, according to the AP. More than 600 people have signed a petition on change.org urging prosecutors to drop the case against her.
UPDATE 4:30 p.m: Esparza was taken into the custody of police this afternoon, according to the Los Angeles Times. Prosecutor Scott Simmons said Esparza rejected a plea deal that would require her to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter, a charge that would carry a 3-year sentence.