In a criminal trial that began Thursday, both sides agree that a Sanger man was looking to have sex with sex workers in Fresno.
What’s in dispute is whether Carlos Ramirez, 39, carried a police badge to kidnap the women, threatened them with a stun gun and handgun and forced them to have sex with him in the summer of 2013.
In Fresno County Superior Court, Ramirez faces multiple counts of rape, forced oral copulation, kidnapping and impersonating a law enforcement officer.
In opening statements of the trial, defense attorney Roger Nuttall told the jury that Ramirez is not a serial rapist, but was only engaging the services of sex workers for consensual sex.
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Ramirez got in trouble with the women when he declined to pay them for the sex acts, Nuttall said. The women then told the Fresno Police Department about untrue allegations of kidnapping, guns and threats.
Prosecutor Amythest “Amy” Freeman, however, said she has evidence to prove that Ramirez went on a “womanhunt in the summer of 2013 and preyed on the less innocent of women.”
The evidence include photographs and videos from Ramirez’s cellphone that shows his sexual assaults on the victims, Freeman said.
The trial in Judge Jonathan Skiles’ courtroom will take two to three weeks. Jurors will have a difficult time deciding Ramirez’s guilt or innocence because some of the women got into his pickup willingly. Others were forced in at gunpoint, Freeman said. “But all of them ended up being raped and thrown away like trash,” she told the jury.
The victims were identified in court only as Samantha, Traci, Jezell, Myesha and Breajae.
At a new conference in 2013, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said a police video camera captured Ramirez’s 2012 black Chevrolet Silverado with a large toolbox in the truck bed in central Fresno near downtown. A photo from the camera and a partial license plate number from one of the victims led to a traffic stop in the city and Ramirez’s arrest on Sept. 17, 2013, Dyer said.
In the truck, police found a stun gun and one of the victims’ cellphones, Dyer said. Ramirez also was wearing the same clothing described by a victim from a rape the night before, the chief said.
In court Thursday, Freeman told the jury that Ramirez carried a badge and told the victims that he was either a police officer, a parole officer or a correctional officer. He then used the stun gun “to coerce them into doing what he wanted them to do,” Freeman said, noting that Ramirez never wore a condom.
The photographs and videos seized from Ramirez’s cellphone proves the victims engaged in sex acts against their will, Freeman told the jury.
Nuttall agreed that the prosecution evidence is shocking but asked the jury to keep an open mind at least until Ramirez testifies.
“The evidence will show Ramirez did not kidnap anyone,” Nuttall told the jury. Instead, he entered into an agreement to have sex with the women but didn’t pay them “for the consensual sexual activities,” he said.