Ex-Sanger teacher to be tried on rape charges, judge rules

The Fresno BeeJune 5, 2014 

A former Sanger High School teacher will stand trial on charges of raping a 17-year-old girl inside his restaurant in November 2011, a judge ruled Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court.

Sergio Heredia's lawyer, Robert Wynne, however, contended his 51-year-old client didn't rape the girl; he had consensual sex with a minor.

But after Sanger police detective described the alleged assault, Judge Denise Whitehead said there was "reasonable, probable and sufficient cause" to believe Heredia committed forcible rape and sexual penetration by force. If convicted he faces 16 years in prison.

Until his trial, Heredia will remain free on $100,000 bail, the judge said.

Heredia taught social studies at Sanger High for about 10 years and had been employed by the district for at least 13 years, school officials said at the time of his arrest in November 2011.

At Thursday's hearing, detective Ramiro Garza testified that the girl was not a student of Heredia's but had worked at Heredia's Sports Bistro on O Street as a waitress for about a week before the assault.

In graphic detail, Garza described how Heredia allegedly raped the crying girl on a pool table during the evening hours of Nov. 21, 2011 -- a Monday night.

Garza said the girl told him that business was slow when Heredia asked her if she wanted to play pool. While teaching her how to play, Heredia sexually assaulted the girl, Garza testified.

After the assault, Garza said the girl told him that she cleaned up in the restroom. She remained at the business until around 10 p.m. when her older sister picked her up. The girl and her sister then drove to the police station and reported the incident around 11 p.m. that night, Garza said.

Wynne, however, told the judge "some things don't make sense."

Wynne said the girl told police that she kissed Heredia and kept playing pool with him after he first touched her private areas. He said the restaurant also was open for business and the girl was free to leave at any time.

In addition, the girl took more than an hour to report the incident to police, Wynne said.

If a crime did occur, it was consensual sex with a minor, he argued.

But prosecutor Sam Dalesandro told the judge that the girl told Heredia several times that she didn't want to have sex and she tried to push him away, but he overpowered her. The girl is about 5-foot-3 inches tall and 130 pounds, Garza testified. Heredia is 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds, court records show. Garza also testified that the girl was crying during the assault.

The Sports Bistro no longer is open for business.

Court records show Heredia has been in trouble previously for drinking.

In January 2007, he pleaded guilty to drunken driving with a blood-alcohol level of .19, or more than twice the .08 legal limit to drive. He was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to serve 20 days in the adult offender work program.

In 2003, he pleaded no contest to drunken driving and was sentenced to three years of probation, court records show.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, plopez@fresnobee.com or @beecourts on Twitter.

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