CORUNNA — A 27-year-old Howell man Tuesday told jurors in 35th Circuit Court that he had a consensual encounter with a co-worker in 2017, but the woman said the man forcefully attacked her despite her pleas for him to stop.
Jesse Sanchez and the woman worked together at Los Tres Amigos in 2017. Sanchez is accused of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. The case likely will go to the jury sometime today.
Sanchez is accused of forcing a then-17-year old female co-worker to have sex with him at his residence on the 200 block of East Exchange Street in August 2017 during a lunch break.
Sanchez was charged by Shiawassee County prosecutors May 10 with the third degree Criminal Sexual Conduct count. He was arraigned in 66th District Court June 28 before Judge Ward Clarkson. He pleaded not guilty. Court records indicate Sanchez posted a $15,000 cash/surety bond July 1, and has been free while awaiting disposition of the charge.
In Michigan, third-degree criminal sexual conduct is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The trial was scheduled to continue this morning with closing arguments from the prosecution and defense, before the jury is given instructions by Judge Matthew Stewart. The case will then be handed over to the jury to decide.
Tuesday, the victim said she viewed Sanchez as “a good friend” who took advantage of her. The Argus-Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault.
“I was crying and telling him to stop,” the victim said in court Tuesday. “I told him to get off me, and don’t do this.”
She added that after the alleged incident, she and Sanchez returned to work.
She then informed a school counselor and a friend the following day. The counselor, in turn, told her foster parent about it, and the foster parent took the victim to Memorial Healthcare, then to Sparrow Health System in Lansing, to undergo a rape exam.
The victim described Sanchez as a co-worker who had attempted to kiss her at work several times prior to the alleged incident.
She admitted she had attended social events along with other co-workers.
During the alleged assault she said Sanchez removed her clothes and “climbed on top” of her, and forced her to have sex.
The victim testified she did not wish to press charges at that time. Sanchez was fired several days after the incident, and began working at another of the business’ locations in Howell. However, the victim’s manager told her Sanchez, who holds dual U.S.-Mexican citizenship, had moved to Mexico, which was not true.
When Sanchez later filled in for a few days as manager in 2018 at the Caledonia Township location where the victim worked, she realized Sanchez hadn’t moved to Mexico and she became upset.
“In 2017, I didn’t want to proceed (with charges),” the victim said. “In 2018, I decided I did.”
Sanchez also took the stand to testify Tuesday afternoon. But his version of events was different. Sanchez said he hadn’t viewed the relationship with the victim as “dating,” but said they had a close friendship and socialized with co-workers.
“We were good friends who went on dates together sometimes,” he said.
He claimed the victim initiated sexual advances toward him, and denied she ever told him to stop or get off her.
“She’s the one who started that,” Sanchez testified.
Defense attorney Doug Corwin asked him if she told Sanchez to stop at any time. “No. Never,” he replied.
He added he was nervous, and didn’t have sex with the victim because he couldn’t perform.
Det./Sgt. John Cecil investigated the case for the Owosso Police Department because the alleged attack took place within the city. He testified he contacted Sanchez in December 2018 before Sanchez left for Mexico for the holidays, but did not interview him until he returned in February 2019.
Cecil testified Sanchez, “admitted to attempting to have sex (with the victim), but couldn’t get an erection.”