As 26 potential jurors waited 47 minutes outside the fifth floor courtroom, Carlos Murgas contemplated what his defense attorney Robert J. Hartsoe told him would be the most important decision he would ever make.
Murgas, 26, was the first of four co-defendants to face trial for the rape of a 43-year-old Herndon woman last April. Before his trial was to begin Monday, Nov. 28 in Fairfax County Circuit Court, Murgas entered an Alford plea before Judge Leslie M. Alden.
A defendant who enters an Alford plea admits that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict, without admitting guilt. The court may then impose a sentence as if the defendant had been convicted of the crime.
Murgas entered the plea with the understanding that he will be sentenced to no more than 12 years in prison. If he proceeded to trial, Murgas could have faced life in prison for his crime.
"Either side could win big or lose big," Hartsoe said to Alden. He asked the judge to accept his client's Alford plea.
Alden has the right to decline Murgas' plea at his sentencing hearing, scheduled for January.
<b>THE NIGHT </b>of April 30 was "a "perfect storm of disaster" for the victim, said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Julie Mitchell.
After drinking in her apartment on Elden Street, the victim went to buy some cigarettes but locked herself out of her apartment, Mitchell said.
Because it was pouring outside, she accepted two men's invitation to dry off inside their apartment, where a group of men were drinking Coronas, listening to music and talking of using cocaine.
After she dried herself off in the bathroom, eight men were "looking at her like a pack of wolves," Mitchell said.
The victim was raped multiple times by approximately five individuals.
Officers on foot patrol in the area responded when they heard a woman screaming for help, according to search warrants filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court last May.
"Officers detained several male subjects at the scene and apprehended one subject who jumped from a third story window to escape," according to the court documents. "Three of the suspects confessed… Two of the suspects, after confessing, implicated the fourth suspect known as Miguel Martinez."
<b>MIGUEL MARTINEZ,</b> Jose Rodolfo Lopez, and a 15-year-old juvenile all face separate trials in the near future.
Murgas, a native of El Salvador with a third-grade education, is expected to be deported after he is convicted and sentenced, according to Mitchell.
As part of the plea agreement, a second charge of abduction with intent to defile was dropped against Murgas, who was assisted by a Spanish translator during the hearing.
The victim was prepared to testify Monday, although she approved of Murgas' plea of guilt, understanding that he faces possible deportation once convicted, Mitchell told Judge Alden.