Former Tucson coach’s sex-with-student trial goes to jury

2014-06-11T00:00:00Z 2014-06-11T09:53:32Z Former Tucson coach’s sex-with-student trial goes to juryBy Patrick McNamara Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

DNA evidence alone proves a former wrestling coach had sex with a 15-year-old student, Deputy County Attorney Michelle Chamblee, told jurors in closing arguments in the trial of Richard Portugal Ortiz.

Ortiz was on trial before Pima County Superior Court Judge Javier Chon-Lopez accused of multiple counts of sexual contact with a minor. Jury deliberations began Tuesday afternoon.

Prosecutors say Ortiz had sexual contact, including sexual intercourse, with 15-year-old girl whom he coached in wrestling at Tucson High School.

The Arizona Daily Star has not identified the teen, who is minor.

Ortiz was arrested late on the night of June 30, 2012, when Pima County Sheriff’s deputies found him and the victim in a parked van on the far southwest side. Both Ortiz and the victim were partially undressed when police arrived.

Defense attorney Joseph P. St. Louis, cast doubt on the veracity of the DNA evidence, saying the time that elapsed from when it was collected and finally analyzed was suspect.

The defense also questioned the reliability of the witness, who at times during interviews with police and later during testimony, appeared uncertain about the dates of the alleged sexual contact.

In one example, St. Louis pointed out the victim was inconsistent in her recollections of the dates of a trip she and other high-school wrestlers took to New Mexico with Ortiz and another coach.

St. Louis said this was crucial because the state claimed it was the first time an incident occurred between the defendant and victim. “This, according to the state, is where everything begins,” he said.

The alleged incident, in which deputies became involved, followed a mixed martial arts event at Casino del Sol. The victim testified that Ortiz parked his van on a secluded road on the way home. The two began kissing then had sex in the backseat.

St. Louis said the incident was a mistake for Ortiz, but doesn’t prove his client had sex with the victim.

“He’s with a student and things get out of hand,” St. Louis told jurors. “He panics and he lies about how he knows (the victim). It’s not evidence of sexual molestation.”

Chamblee said the defendant’s attempts to diminish the evidence were unconvincing, asking the jury to “not leave your common sense at the door” when it began deliberations. “He was caught crossing the line with a 15-year-old,” she said. “A 53-year-old man cannot have sex with a 15 –year old.”

Jury deliberations began Tuesday afternoon.

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at pmcnamara@azstarnet.com or 573-4241. On Twitter @pm929

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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