An Illinois appeals court overturned a Round Lake Beach man’s conviction and sentence in a child sexual assault case, ruling that prosecutors made a technical error while charging the man.
Efrain V. Ortega, 55, of Round Lake Beach, was charged in 2003 with predatory criminal sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual assault of a child and three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a child.
Ortega was accused of sexually assaulting and sexually abusing a female family member, who was under the age of 13, between the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Ortega was arrested in April 2003 on the charges and appeared at some of his initial court proceedings.
He failed to appear in court for a hearing in October 2003 and a warrant was issued, court records show.
Ortega was not taken into custody until July 2016 — nearly 13 years later — in Wisconsin and extradited to Illinois.
A jury trial was held in September 2018 and the jury convicted Ortega of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child and three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse.
A judge later sentenced Ortega to 13 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Ortega appealed his conviction.
In late October, the Illinois Second District Appellate Court issued a ruling on the appeal.
In a 3-0 ruling, the justices reversed the Lake County Circuit Court’s judgment and vacated the convictions on all charges against Ortega.
The appeals court called the indictment against Ortega “fatally defective” because one of the charges the man was indicted on did not exist for the entire date range listed in the indictment.
The original indictment said that count 1, predatory criminal sexual assault, was committed on or about January 1, 1998.
Prosecutors on the first day of the trial asked the court to amend the date to July 1, 1996.
Ortega’s lawyer had objected to the amendment, arguing that on July 1, 1996, there was no such crime as “predatory criminal sexual assault.”
“It came in front of the legislature sometime in I would say 1999, 2000, your honor,” the lawyer told the judge.
The judge allowed the prosecution to amend the change. However, when the indictment was amended, it was changed to January 1, 1996, instead of July 1, 1996.
Prosecutors eventually acknowledged that the predatory offense did not become effective until May 29, 1996, which is after the date of offense they listed for the crime on the amended indictment.
The appeals court also found that Ortega’s lawyer provided “ineffective assistance” to Ortega in his case.
Ortega claimed that his lawyer made him go to trial and not accept a plea deal offered by the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office.
The appeals court has remanded the case back to the Lake County Circuit Court and ordered a new trial.