Mad River Union
EUREKA - Accused rapist and former Humboldt State University student Raul Sierra IV has been placed on three years’ probation with no additional jail time, under a plea agreement accepted Aug. 3 by Humboldt Superior Court Judge Timothy P. Cissna.
Sierra is subject to a criminal protection order that blocks all contact with the victim, HSU student Rigmor ((cq)) Angel Soerensen of Norway. He must also stay off the campus.
Charged originally with acquaintance rape “by use of drugs,” Sierra received an 18-month deferred entry of judgment for false imprisonment by violence and pleaded nolo contendere (no contest) to a misdemeanor assault charge.
The plea bargain requires the ex-HSU football player to provide 50 hours of community service in the San Diego area, where he now lives, and undergo 12 hours of alcohol, sex and consent counseling. He may not own or possess a firearm for 10 years.
Soerensen, 21, who voluntarily disclosed her identity at a prior preliminary hearing, read aloud a handwritten statement after the resolution of the case was approved.
Crying as she approached the district attorney’s table and sat down, Soerensen wept heavily throughout her statement. She began by thanking Deputy District Attorney Brie Bennett, who prosecuted the case, and Judge Cissna for granting her an audience.
“Although this [plea agreement] is not a fair resolution” of the case, she said, the outcome was a success well beyond what the disappointing statistics in sexual assault convictions show.
“No one deserves to go through this,” Soerensen declared as she broke down momentarily. “It’s a feeling like you got killed while your body is still alive.”
Of her assailant, she stated, “For me, he will always be a criminal.”
Soerensen said that as a result of her ordeal, she plans to follow Bennett’s example and become an attorney to help other survivors of sexual violence.
Seated in the gallery after the plea agreement, Sierra looked down and away as Soerensen addressed the court for the final time.
A junior at the time of his arrest Jan. 21 and 25 years old, Sierra pleaded not guilty to the alleged acquaintance rape “by use of drugs” (Union Jan. 27, A1).
The alleged rape occurred in the bedroom of Soerensen's campus residence hall early last November, after a prolonged drinking party.
Soerensen admitted on the witness stand at the preliminary hearing that she was drunk and had blacked out at one point during the evening in question.
The Humboldt State University Police Department provided evidence that Sierra, too, was drunk.
Testifying that much of her memory of the encounter was lost, Soerensen remembered she was in bed and realized Sierra was lying on top of her.
She remembered holding “both of her hands over my vagina.”
She testified that in a subsequent phone call, supervised by an HSU police sergeant, Sierra admitted having sex with her and apologized for doing so when, in her words, she “was too drunk and didn’t want to.” She said she had also made it clear to Sierra on prior occasions that she had no sexual interest in him and that she was seeing another man.
Sierra’s co-defense counsel was Eureka attorney Beorn Zepp of Rain & Zepp, Inc.