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Date rape charges dropped; man sentenced for theft, assault

Prosecutors say victim reticence, lack of physical evidence led to plea agreement
Benjamin

A Durango man suspected of sexually assaulting a woman after giving her a date rape drug has been sentenced to three years’ probation.

Jordan Tyler Benjamin, 26, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault and felony theft in a plea agreement with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Benjamin faced charges of sexually assaulting a helpless victim, sexually assaulting a victim incapable of appraising her condition and sexual assault without consent, but those charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Prosecutors said they lacked forensic evidence about the alleged assault or drug used to support the sex charges.

District Attorney Christian Champagne said sexual assault cases involving date rape drugs, lack of physical evidence and reluctance on the part of victims to pursue charges can make prosecution difficult.

“This is always a very difficult situation when you’re dealing with an allegation of sexual assault and you’ve got a situation where people’s abilities to accurately perceive what was occurring is influenced by intoxicants, whether voluntary or involuntary,” Champagne said. “It makes it very difficult to understand exactly what was going on.”

Champagne said his office takes victims’ input seriously in all cases, especially in sexual assault cases. Sometimes, victims are reluctant and unsure about moving forward in the judicial process, and prosecutors take that into consideration. “So that was part of the analysis here, the victim’s input,” he said.

“When you have a combination of hazy perceptions and the inability to corroborate with forensic evidence, and a certain level of reticence about the process and going through the process, that’s kind of what came together in this case,” Champagne said.

Prosecutors still had sufficient evidence to proceed with the theft and assault charges, he said.

Benjamin was facing up to five years in prison under terms of the plea agreement, and prosecutors asked for incarceration, Champagne said, but Senior Judge Gregory Lyman opted for a probationary sentence.

Sep 23, 2021
Police say man accused of sexual assault may have used date rape drug

According to an arrest affidavit, Benjamin was suspected of giving a woman a date rape drug and having sexual relations with her sometime between 9 and 9:30 p.m. Aug. 10 in an alley in downtown Durango. The woman’s boyfriend happened to come upon the situation, and at first he thought his girlfriend was cheating on him, according to the affidavit.

The boyfriend left the area, but upon returning he realized something different was happening. Benjamin apparently became startled, jumped up, pulled his pants up and warned onlookers that he had a gun, according to the affidavit.

The woman regained consciousness during the assault, about the time her boyfriend arrived on scene, according to an earlier interview with the Durango Police Department. Benjamin reportedly stole the woman’s purse and a cellphone, according to police.

Benjamin was later arrested on unrelated charges, and during the jail booking process, a sergeant located a black cellphone that had been reported stolen. The phone belonged to the woman’s boyfriend.

The woman was shown a photo lineup, and she immediately identified Benjamin as the man who sexually assaulted her, according to the affidavit.

According to the woman, she had just meet Benjamin and they drank beers at a downtown restaurant. The woman said she left her beer unattended a couple of times – once to smoke a cigarette and once to go to the bathroom.

She told police she and Benjamin never talked about having sex. Eventually, “things started getting fuzzy,” she said. She said she didn’t remember much after that, other than being in the alley, feeling “pressure” and feeling her body freeze.

Champagne said rape exams and drug-facilitated crime testing are time-sensitive.

“Those drugs metabolize, generally, in sometimes less than 24 hours, so they’re very time-sensitive,” Champagne said. “In this particular case, we did not develop enough evidence from that testing to reveal any of those types of drugs.

“It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, it just means we weren’t able to detect those drugs in her system,” Champagne said. “... We just weren’t able to develop the evidence that we needed to support this kind of case.”

shane@durangoherald.com