The accusation was that a cable installer cornered a young mother in her Geneva bedroom and fondled her for about seven minutes before suddenly stopping, finishing his paperwork and leaving - without sex. In the conclusion of a two-day trial Tuesday, defense attorney Kathleen Colton told jurors to draw on their own experiences and common sense to decide if the alleged actions of Gustavo Cardenas and the inconsistent statements of his 25-year-old accuser made sense.
After two hours and 10 minutes of deliberation. the jury of eight men and four women found Cardenas, 23, of Bridgeview, not guilty of two counts of criminal sexual abuse from the June 3, 2006, incident in a Division Street apartment. He could have faced up to three years in prison on each count if convicted. Hearing the verdict, Cardenas broke into a broad smile aimed at his bosses from Baker Installations, a subcontractor for Comcast, who watched the trial. "I'm free," he said as he headed out of the courthouse.
Cardenas maintained from the beginning that he did not touch the woman. However, his DNA was found on saliva on her breast. The possibility of consensual sexual contact was never raised in the trial. Prosecutors relied heavily on the DNA evidence and statements from the woman, who said Cardenas cornered her, put his mouth on her breast and his hand down her pants.
Prosecutor Greg Sams said she never wavered from those core facts. Other inconsistencies could be explained by fear and victims' different reactions to trauma, Sams told the jury. Detective Michelle Frangella, a 22-year Geneva police officer, agreed, testifying that victims often change details on the attack during repeated tellings.
The woman said she was too scared to do more than slap Cardenas once and to not report the crime until later that night. Still, the woman changed accounts of where her 20-month-old was during the attack, what Cardenas said to her, whether she pushed away from him and whether he grabbed her buttocks or ground his hips into her.
"The beauty of the truth is the truth doesn't change," Colton told the jury. Colton also questioned the plausibility of some actions the witness testified to. The woman testified that she told Cardenas she was going to watch him do the 30-minute phone cable installation but never said another word to him while she watched. When he attacked her later, he said, "This is how you hold a woman" and that he would do for her what her boyfriend couldn't do, she testified. After he told her she was attractive, she testified, she let her son sit on Cardenas' lap and play with his tools. Later, the woman said, Cardenas stood at her bedroom door and would not let her leave, yet she still walked up to 6 inches away from him. Then he grabbed her, she said.
At the woman's comment that Cardenas undid her bra from the back with one hand in one swift motion, Colton asked the jury to remember their teenage years and whether that was possible. The woman told jurors that Cardenas was in her home for 30 minutes and that she left five minutes after him. Yet the timeframes she gave police left 1 1/2 hours unaccounted for between the times Cardenas and the woman left the apartment. "These accusations are ludicrous," Colton said. "They are unbelievable."