VALPARAISO — Prosecutors waited too long to file a criminal charge in a brutal sexual assault from 23 years ago in Valparaiso and thus the case should be dismissed, according to a motion filed this week by the defense.
Jaime Cordero, who is serving lengthy prison sentences for burglary and criminal deviate conduct convictions in Lake County, also was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial in the pending Porter County case, according to the motion filed by defense attorney Mark Chargualaf.
Cordero was charged Sept. 20, 2012, with a Class B felony count of criminal deviate conduct based on allegations of surprising a 60-year-old Valparaiso woman in her home on Sept. 18, 1996, by forcing her to the floor, wrapping duct tape around her eyes and hands and then sexually assaulting her.
That level felony is supposed to be filed within five years of the alleged offense, and that date was Sept. 18, 2001, according to the motion.
An exception in the law allows for the charge to be filed within a year of the date of the discovery of DNA evidence or a time when DNA evidence could have been discovered, the motion states. This exception does not apply because no DNA evidence was collected at the scene of this attack and those allegedly linking him to the offense were collected during other cases dating back to 2000.
"Thus, the State would have had up until July 20, 2001, to charge the Defendant with the alleged crime," according to the motion.
Prosecutors had not yet filed a response as of Friday morning.
Cordero appeared in court on the pending charge in March after the new administration in the Porter County prosecutor's office discovered the case had yet to be pursued, Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Buitendorp said at the time.
Cordero is locked up at Indiana State Prison in Michigan City on a criminal deviate conduct conviction and two burglary convictions from Lake County. His earliest possible release date is Nov. 8, 2034, according to online Indiana Department of Correction records.
Cordero was charged amid a rash of at least 12 similar sexual assault cases across the Region and Lansing, according to court records. He was identified through a blood sample he allegedly left behind in a burglary in New Orleans.
The Valparaiso woman in the local case said she watered plants in her yard and went back in her house, where a man wearing a black ski mask grabbed her by the neck and head and forced her down, striking her head on the tile kitchen floor, according to charging information.
He then "proceeded to duct tape her hands behind her back and duct taped around her head over her eyes," police said.
The man forced her to disrobe and then sexually assaulted her before fleeing, after searching the house and being given the woman's purse, according to court documents.
The Porter County Sheriff's Department investigated, but closed the case in March 1997 after failing to find any new developments in identifying the attacker, according to court records. The case was reopened in March 2012 after a special task force was formed to investigate a rash of similar sexual assaults in Munster, Dyer, Lansing and Porter County.
All the attacks occurred during the day in the victim's home, duct tape was used, similar sexual assaults were reported and the offender "presented an almost polite demeanor in all of the assaults," according to charging documents.
Cordero was linked to the Valparaiso crime as a result of blood and DNA evidence linked to the investigation in New Orleans and a 2002 rape case in Munster, police said.
A trial is scheduled for July 29.
Cordero had been sentenced in March 2014 to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to a 1994 Dyer burglary resulting in bodily injury, according to previous Times reporting.
This came a few months after a jury found him guilty of criminal deviate conduct and burglary in a 2002 Munster sexual assault case. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison in that case.