March 17, 2015
BOULDER – The daughter of a Lafayette man accused of sexually assaulting his niece, who was a minor, testified Wednesday morning that she saw her father grab the girl’s breasts under her shirt while she was sleeping.
Malia Mata said in her testimony, given in the form of a video recorded by police, that the alleged victim was 9 years old when this incident occurred.
Rafael Mata-Vasquez, 51, has pleaded innocent to the charges of sexual assault of a child and his bond was set at $100,000, according to court documents. Mata-Vasquez is being represented by public defender Jennifer Wickens.
Mata also said in her testimony that in the month prior to when she gave the video testimony that, she, the alleged victim, and Mata-Vasquez, were drinking together when Mata-Vasquez threated to call the police. She testified that the alleged victim then said, “Do you want me to tell them that you raped me?”
Court documents say that the alleged assaults occurred over a range of dates in 2005. Mata-Vasquez was arrested in March 2014, according to court documents.
Court documents say that Mata-Vasquez is scheduled for five days of jury trial and his sentencing is supposed to occur on Friday, Madoche Jean, a deputy district attorney, said.
Prosecution witness Suvi Miller, a clinical social worker who works with sexual trauma victims, was asked a number of times about the concept known as “grooming” which Miller described as a process in which the perpetrator will attempt to desensitize and prepare a victim for sexual contact.
The defense tried to get Miller’s testimony thrown out on the grounds that she was not a research specialist and had not published any peer-reviewed articles. Judge Andrew Macdonald declined the defense’s request.
Jurors also heard testimony from Manuel Mata-Garcia, the nephew of Mata-Vasquez. Mata-Garcia said that he never saw Mata-Vasquez sexually assault the alleged victim. Mata-Garcia also said he never saw Mata-Vasquez treat the alleged victim any differently than any of his children, nieces, or nephews.
The defense also called Juan Mata, the brother of Mata-Vasquez and the grandfather of the alleged victim, who echoed Mata-Garcia’s testimony.
Detective Stacy Hendershott with the Lafayette Police department testified for the prosecution as an investigator on Mata-Vasquez’s case.
Hendershott said that she had arranged for the alleged victim to undergo a forensic interview, which she described as an interview technique used by law enforcement to find out if a child has been mistreated, but the alleged victim never showed up.
Hendershott also said that she could not contact the alleged victim for months following the skipped interview. Hendershott said she visited the alleged victim’s home and school multiple times but could not find her.
Hendershott said she was eventually able to contact the alleged victim, who appeared in court on Tuesday to testify against her uncle, Jean said.
The prosecution asked Hendershott about Mata-Vasquez’s cell phone and specifically about the phones background photo which was set as a photo of Mata-Vasquez and the alleged victim standing together.