Crime

Ex-Fort Worth bar owner who had mistrial in his rape case seeking bond changes again

Defense attorneys for a former Fort Worth bar owner whose rape case ended in a mistrial last month have again filed a motion to loosen bond conditions.

Defense attorneys Brandon Barnett of Fort Worth and Chip Lewis of Houston filed the motion earlier this month for 42-year-old Israel Espiricueta, who is charged with two counts of sexual assault after he was accused of rape in December 2017.

They are requesting the elimination of any curfew for Espiricueta, which is now 10 p.m., to allow him to work at his Austin bar, seek other employment and remove his GPS tracking device.

Espiricueta does not object to the continued condition of the bond that he not consume alcohol, according to the motion.

It is the second time since May that defense attorneys have filed a motion to modify bond conditions.

“The State is resisting these modifications despite the jury’s 10-2 vote for acquittal,” Lewis said in a Tuesday email to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Officials with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office could not be reached Wednesday for comment. Prosecutors haven’t said whether they plan to retry the case after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

The Austin man has been free on $10,000 bond.

As evidence in support of modifications to his bond conditions, Espiricueta’s attorneys noted that his conduct was exemplary in his pretrial supervision and cited evidence presented in the trial which ended in a mistrial.

Prosecutors had asserted that there “may be other victims out there,” but there was no evidence presented in the trial that there were other victims in Fort Worth or Austin, the defense attorneys wrote in their motion.

Jurors could not decide whether the evidence proved Espiricueta raped a woman in the Fort Worth bar of which he was part owner. Prosecutors argued the woman was passed out at The Library Bar after business hours on the morning of Dec. 23, 2017, when Espiricueta assaulted her. Defense attorneys argued the sex was consensual.

He also was charged with taking the woman to a downtown Fort Worth hotel and raping her there, but prosecutors focused their case at the August trial on the alleged crime at The Library Bar.

In his closing arguments at the trial, Lewis told jurors there was no doubt that the woman expressed consent to have sex with Espiricueta.

“We cannot allow injustice based on this evidence,” Lewis said referring to what defense attorneys called gaps in the case presented by prosecutors. “He just ain’t a rapist.”

Espiricueta testified that the sex was consensual and the woman was never unconscious. Bartenders also told the jury that the woman talked to them that morning at the bar.

In her closing arguments last month, Tarrant County Assistant District Attorney Julie Harbin encouraged the jury to re-watch the video. Prosecutors presented jurors a bar surveillance video of the incident.

“She is not moving the entire time,” Harbin said. “The only one moving was him as he’s thrusting into her.”

Harbin also pointed out the woman suffered numerous bruises and tears in her genital area. The woman’s name has not been used in the case. She testified that she had gone out just for drinks at the bar, at 611 Houston St., that night in December 2017.

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