October 31, 2014

Elyria
Rain
43°F
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Teen recants on the stand

Charges dropped against man accused of relationship with girl

ELYRIA — Michael Rojas was looking at 18 years in prison when he went to trial Monday, facing gross sexual imposition and other charges that accused him of having a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl.

Rojas 

But when she took the stand Monday, the alleged victim, now 16, told the prosecutor that Rojas never touched her. That led county Common Pleas Judge Raymond Ewers to dismiss the charges against Rojas, prompting his family in the back of the courtroom to applaud.

Now the girl and one her friends, who backed up part of her story to police, likely will face charges of filing a false police report, said Lorain police Sgt. Mark Carpentiere, who handled the case.

Rojas, 34, declined to comment as he left the county Justice Center. His attorney, Jack Bradley said Rojas was glad it was over.

“Sometimes putting somebody on the witness stand, they decide that it’s time to tell the truth,” Bradley said.

Assistant county Prosecutor Steve List had asked Ewers to let a jury that heard a day’s worth of testimony decide the case, saying he believed the girl and her friend told police the truth during several discussions since 2004, when the charges were filed. The girls’ recanting their testimony was a complete surprise to both him and Carpentiere, he said.

“I will submit they were lying on the witness stand today,” List said.

Bradley, however, argued that there was no reason to continue with the trial.

“I don’t think there’s any evidence of any crime being remotely committed here,” he said.

List and Carpentiere declined to discuss the specifics of the case, but Bradley said Rojas was the one who first called police in July 2004 to complain that the girl was stalking him.

The girl, Bradley said, was obsessed with Rojas to the point where she had burned his name into her arm and was writing about him in her diary, noting that it was a good day when she saw him.

But in September 2004, Rojas was indicted, accused of having a relationship with the girl dating back to 2003 when she was 12. The girl even told police a year after the original indictment that Rojas had performed oral sex on her.

Bradley said it’s the first time he’s ever seen a witness recant on the witness stand.

“It’s like a Perry Mason moment,” he said. “But I believe the system somehow, some way usually works.”

This isn’t the first time that Rojas has found himself walking away a free man after being accused of a felony. In 1992, he was cleared by a jury after a two-day trial on felonious assault, according to court records.

Other times, the facts haven’t been on Rojas’ side, court records show. He’s bounced in and out of prison since 1991, serving time in cases where he’s pleaded guilty to theft, grand theft of a motor vehicle, felonious assault and abduction.

Most recently, he pleaded guilty in 2006 to failure to pay child support and served six months in prison.

Contact Brad Dicken at 653-6258 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.