Rapist gets out of jail for $6,000 plus legal fees and a sex education course

Man who confessed to sexually assaulting, threatening, and beating a woman is set free after striking a plea deal

Workers in a lettuce field in Murcia, Spain.
Workers in a lettuce field in Murcia, Spain.Marcial Guillén (EFE)

One night in May 2019, Celso drove his white van to meet Covadonga (both fictitious names), a Paraguayan farmworker he supervised during apricot picking season in Murcia (southeastern Spain). The 64-year-old man picked her up and drove to a farm known as Los Chatos de Yéchar. When they arrived, Covadonga asked him what they were doing there. “Shut up and do what I tell you,” he said. Afraid of her boss, the woman said nothing while he raped her. Celso then threatened to fire Covadonga and her Paraguayan co-workers if she reported the rape.

Covadonga courageously reported the rape and Celso spent the next six months in jail. However, the Provincial Court of Murcia ruled in May 2022 that the rapist need only pay his victim’s legal costs and US$6,000 in damages. The court also slapped a restraining order on Celso, placed him on probation for five years, and required him to complete a sex education program.

The confessed rapist got off so lightly due to a plea deal agreed to by the defense, the prosecution, and the court. Two policemen who pleaded guilty to raping a woman in Málaga (southern Spain) received similar lenient treatment in a verdict that shocked Isabel Tobeña, a judge and spokesperson for a Spanish professional association of judges and magistrates. Tobeña is critical of these plea deals, noting that Article 191 of Spain’s Penal Code requires prosecutors to pursue legal action even if the victim decides to drop the charges: “…forgiveness by the offended party or legal representative in crimes of sexual violence does not eliminate the requirement and responsibility to pursue legal action.”

Tobeña acknowledges that plea deals happen for a number of reasons. “For example, if prosecutors don’t think they have enough evidence, they’ll decide not to go to trial.” In Celso’s case, he was judged “… a primary offender lacking a criminal record prior to the offense prosecuted with no civil liability to satisfy, and sentenced to no more than two years in prison, sentence suspended.”

On the day of her rape, Covadonga and Celso exchanged phone numbers and set a time to meet that night. He picked her up at 8.45pm and drove to the farm where he stopped and forced Covadonga into the back of the van. Celso beat Covadonga, stripped her naked, and forcibly raped her without a condom. When he was finished, Celso said, “You’re a whore that got into my car voluntarily – you knew what was going to happen. Get dressed and don’t say anything because no one will believe you. If you do, I’ll make sure you and the other Paraguayans lose their jobs.”

Covadonga immediately filed a police report and went to the hospital for treatment of wounds on her thighs, arms, left shoulder, lip, right buttock, and back. Celso spent the next six months in prison. But in the initial court proceedings, the prosecutor modified the charges against Celso to the crime of sexual assault with “… the mitigating factors of damages paid [the US$6,000 plus legal fees paid to the victim before the trial] and the defendant’s admission of guilt.”

The prosecutor requested a sentence of two years in prison, a restraining order prohibiting Celso from approaching within 500 meters of Covadonga and any form of verbal, written, or electronic communication, and a five-year probation period. When Covadonga and her lawyers confirmed the receipt of financial compensation and agreed to the prosecution’s recommendation, the trial was terminated, and the crime of rape was settled for a few thousand dollars and a sex education course.

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