(Daily file photo by Leah Dunlevy)
A Chicago man who was found guilty on April 13 of criminal sexual assault against a former Northwestern student is filing a motion to have the verdict reconsidered. If that fails, his lawyers plan to appeal.
Pablo Herrera, a 33-year-old from West Chicago, was found not guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault — a more serious charge — and was also acquitted of sexual abuse, defense attorney Domingo Vargas said.
Herrera was accused of forcing himself on a then-20-year-old NU undergraduate six years ago.
Vargas said Herrera and the woman were both from the same area and had attended the same church. They had been communicating over social media months before the alleged assault.
On April 6, 2012, the two visited several bars in Wrigleyville before heading back to the Evanston campus.
Vargas said the two arrived at the Foster-Walker Complex — the woman’s dormitory — around 3 a.m. By then, the trains to West Chicago had stopped running, so both parties agreed to Herrera sleeping over in the woman’s room, Vargas said.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the woman testified on April 11 at Cook County’s Skokie court that after agreeing to let Herrera sleep on her floor, she woke up to find her clothes off and Herrera sexually assaulting her.
She said she didn’t immediately understand what was going on and had to later Google the phrase, “How do I know if I had been raped?”
“He told me I was lucky because some of his friends wouldn’t have stopped,” she said, according to the Tribune. “I was trying to process what had just happened.”
The defense argued that nothing happened, Vargas said. At trial, he questioned the woman’s version of events, asking her what she was wearing and challenging her actions the following day.
Vargas told The Daily that the woman escorted Herrera out the next morning and gave him directions to the CTA train. And although the woman reported the incident within 24 hours to University Police and was examined at Evanston Hospital, Vargas said she didn’t seek to press charges until roughly nine days later.
On April 12, the doctor who examined the woman testified that she suffered an anal tear, but no DNA from a swab taken from her was matched to Herrera, the Tribune reported.
According to the Tribune, a UP officer testified that Herrera originally agreed to an interview with police but then did not show up. Police eventually enlisted the help of the U.S. Marshals Service, who arrested Herrera in 2017.
In an email to The Daily, University spokesman Bob Rowley said NU has no additional information.
“We have great respect for our former student who was subjected to the assault and who took the stand to testify, which undoubtedly took a significant amount of courage to do,” he said.
Prosecutor Pamela Stratigakis did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Vargas said Herrera was taken into custody immediately after the verdict was delivered. With the felony conviction, he faces four to 15 years in prison when he’s sentenced at a later date.
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