Woman 'devastated' over release of man charged with attacking her

Published: Tuesday, March 26 2013 8:39 p.m. MDT

Jesse Anthony Saenz, foreground, stands with his attorney, Clint Hendricks, during a status hearing Tuesday, March 26, 2013, in 8th District Court. Saenz, 23, is accused of attacking a Uintah County woman and sexually assaulting her in June 2012.

Geoff Liesik, Deseret News

VERNAL — A Uintah County woman says she fears for her safety and the safety of others now that the man accused of sexually assaulting her in June 2012 has been released from jail.

Jesse Anthony Saenz, who has a history of sex offenses as a juvenile, appeared in 8th District Court for a status hearing Tuesday.

Saenz, 23, is charged with aggravated kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, object rape, forcible sodomy, and forcible sexual abuse, all first-degree felonies. He also faces misdemeanor counts of failure to stop at the command of police, damaging a communication device and criminal mischief.

On June 10, a man living near 50 West and 600 North in Vernal heard yelling outside his home about 2 a.m. and went to investigate. He witnessed a man smack a woman, then grab her by the throat and drag her into a field, according to charging documents.

The homeowner called 911. Responding officers found the man and woman still in the field. The man — later identified as Saenz — attempted to flee, but a Taser was deployed and he was arrested.

Saenz did not know the woman he is accused of attacking, police said.

During Saenz's first court appearance, Judge Ed Peterson denied his release on bail, citing his belief that Saenz posed "an immediate danger to the community," court records show. But Judge Clark McClellan, to whom the case was assigned, set bail at $178,000 in December.

The amount was agreed upon by the prosecution and the defense. It covered not only the June arrest, but also an unrelated forcible sodomy case that was filed against Saenz in November based on allegations that he sexually abused a relative in 2005 when Saenz was 16 years old. 

"I think the bail was really low," the woman Saenz is accused of attacking said after court Tuesday. "I was devastated to find out that he had been released."

Saenz posted bail earlier this month, but must wear an electronic ankle monitor as a condition of his release. He also has a 9 p.m. curfew and cannot enter the Vernal area, except to appear in court.

As an adult, Saenz has misdemeanor convictions for theft and interfering with an arresting officer, court records show. His juvenile record, however, shows he was referred to juvenile court in 2007 on allegations of rape of a child and sex with a minor under the age of 16. He was ultimately placed in a secure facility for juveniles.

"I don't feel safe with him being out," the alleged victim in the June case told the Deseret News.

"I don't think it's safe for other people either," she said. "I have a real hard time with it."

Saenz is scheduled to go on trial July 8.

E-mail: gliesik@deseretnews.com

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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