Teens Opt For Bench Trial

Judge Set To Hear Rape Case Next Week

Posted: May 25, 2013

HARRISONBURG — Two teenagers accused of violently raping a woman in her apartment in October will have a judge, not a jury, decide their fate when they go to trial on Thursday.
During a hearing in Rockingham County Circuit Court Friday, both the prosecution and defense waived their right to a jury trial, opting to let Judge T.J. Wilson determine the defendants’ guilt or innocence.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst agreed to waive the jury trial because, under Virginia law, a judge would sentence the two juveniles regardless of whether a jury heard the case.
“There’s no advantage for the commonwealth,” said Garst after the hearing.
Darien Vasquez and his co-defendant, Brandon Valentin, both 16-year-old Harrisonburg residents, are accused of breaking into a 22-year-old woman’s residence in the Hunters Ridge complex. Police say that once inside, the pair threatened the woman with a knife, robbed and repeatedly raped her.
Prosecutors say officers responded to the 1400 block of Bradley Drive early on the morning of Oct. 20 for a report of a sexual assault and armed robbery. Police say that Valentin and Vasquez, who were arrested a couple of blocks from the crime scene, confessed to the crimes.
Vasquez was indicted in December on 22 charges, including multiple counts of rape and sodomy. Valentin was indicted on 17 felonies, including multiple counts of rape and sodomy.
Both teens have been charged as adults. If convicted, they face life in prison.
If Wilson finds the teens guilty, he likely would order a presentencing report and schedule a sentencing hearing at a future date.
During Friday’s hearing, Vasquez’s defense attorney, Andrew Harding, told Wilson that the mental evaluation of his client was complete and that he would not be using an insanity defense.
Vasquez is being held at Middle River Regional Jail in Augusta County without bond. Valentin is being held without bond at the Shenandoah Valley Detention Center, also located in Augusta County.
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or pdelea@dnronline.com