HURON — A former oper-ator of a Huron bar who was convicted of six counts of rape involving three 12- and 14-year-old girls has been sentenced to 100 years in the state penitentiary.
Werner Fajardo, 35, faced a maximum penalty of life behind bars for the most serious conviction in which a 12-year-old was sexually assaulted. But he was essentially given a life sentence because he will likely serve 50 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
A Beadle County jury convicted the Sioux Falls man in August. At the time of the assaults in late October 2011, Fajardo owned and operated the El Cuervo bar and dance hall in downtown Huron.
Circuit Judge Jon Erickson handed down consecutive 75- and 25-year sentences on two of the convictions, and concurrent sentences of up to 25 years on the others. He informed Fajardo of his right to appeal his case.
Defense attorney Carmen Means said prior to sentencing that many letters of support had been written on Fajardo’s behalf. He also maintains his innocence.
But Beadle County Deputy State’s Attorney Jeff Banks said the testimony at trial of the young victims was powerful and emotional. The defendant took advantage of them and put them in harm’s way, and would have continued to be a sexual predator if he had not been caught, he said.
Fajardo did not make a statement to the judge during the 15-minute sentencing hearing.
Before handing down the sentence, Erickson said Fajardo, more than twice the age of his victims, gave them alcohol.
“These young girls were taken advantage of,” Erickson said.
Along with the six counts of rape, Fajardo was convicted by a jury of three men and nine women of sexual contact with a person incapable of consent in connection with a fourth girl, as well as violations of South Dakota’s alcoholic beverage laws.
With a lack of physical evidence, the case basically came down to the believability of the girls. Jurors had to weigh the fact that their stories changed as the investigation proceeded.
In his closing argument in August, Beadle County State’s Attorney Mike Moore acknowledged that the prosecution’s case rested on whether the stories the girls told to authorities and jurors described what actually happened at El Cuervo.
Means argued that jurors should find that the girls were not believable because they had told lies and their stories had changed. Innocent people have gone to prison because lies were told, she said.
After he was arrested, Fajardo told police he didn’t give the girls alcohol and accused one of them of setting him up on the rape charges. For the complete article see the 11-07-2012 issue.
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