February 12, 2013

Alleged rapist found not guilty

Rachel Brown

— A Whitfield County jury found a Dalton man not guilty of raping a woman at a homeless camp in Dalton in May 2012.

Ernest Patrick Cordova was 46 when the Dalton Police Department charged him. The jury reached not guilty verdicts on rape and false imprisonment charges involving Linda Gail Hall on Jan. 31, court records show.

People in the homeless camp near South Hamilton Street told police Cordova attacked a woman there and was raping her and they broke up the attack, officials said at the time.

Public Defender Mike McCarthy said a jury reached the verdicts after two days of testimony.

“The issue was whether or not there was any force involved and whether or not it was consensual,” McCarthy said. “(Given) the facts and the evidence, they (jury members) just determined that there was reasonable doubt.”

McCarthy said Cordova and the woman were engaged in sexual intercourse that was consensual and “once these people happened upon it, the lady changed her mind or for whatever reason said, ‘No, I didn’t want this,’ but there was lack of physical evidence.”

District Attorney Bert Poston said the woman and a witness who saw the woman “attempting to fight Mr. Cordova” were among the people who testified. Poston said Cordova left the scene, and when law officers located him a short time later he made “some strange and evasive statements, not a confession but not consistent with innocence either.”

Poston said he respects the jury’s decision. He said there were several factors that may have, for jury members, damaged the credibility of some of those who testified. The woman had been drinking, he said, and some of the homeless who testified had criminal records.

“The defense rightfully and successfully attacked their credibility, but the public should understand that rapists and other predatory criminals choose the time and the place, and choose victims who are vulnerable not only to the initial attack, but also less likely to report the attack and less likely to be believed if they do,” Poston said.

McCarthy said the jury stayed until 7 p.m. trying to reach the verdicts at the end of the second day of testimony and returned with verdicts at about 10 a.m. the next day. The case was heard in Judge William T. Boyett’s courtroom.

Cordova had been in jail since his arrest in May and was facing a sentence of up to life in prison without parole, McCarthy said.