Sentencing delayed for Merced man convicted of raping college student

03/11/2014 7:26 PM

03/11/2014 7:26 PM

Sentencing was delayed Tuesday for a Merced man convicted of raping a college student last year at his home and groping another.

Juan J. Rocha, 56, pleaded no contest last month to a felony count of forcible rape and a misdemeanor count of sexual battery by restraint in connection with two students from Japan who were staying at his home last year while attending Merced College, according to Merced County Superior Court records.

Formal sentencing was scheduled for Tuesday, but Judge Marc A. Garcia postponed the hearing six weeks to allow Rocha time to take care of an undisclosed medical issue.

Rocha’s attorney, David Mudridge, did not reveal the nature of Rocha’s medical condition, but told the court it may require surgery. Mudridge said it was “smarter” for Rocha to handle the trouble before heading to state prison.

“This allows him and his insurance to take care of it rather than burdening the taxpayers if he were (in prison),” Mudridge said.

Gerad Egan, the deputy district attorney prosecuting the case, did not object to the unexpected motion to continue and suggested the six-week timeline.

The judge ordered Rocha to return to court April 22 and told him “unless something really extraordinary happens,” sentencing would go forward at that hearing.

“If this (health issue) is not resolved in that time, it will be resolved inside prison,” Garcia said Tuesday.

Rocha accepted a plea deal with prosecutors Feb. 4 in exchange for reduced charges. Rocha agreed to a three-year state prison sentence and prosecutors agreed to dismiss an additional count each of felony rape and misdemeanor sexual battery, according to court documents.

Rocha was arrested July 22, 2013, in connection with sexually assaulting the two Japanese students, ages 18 and 20.

According to a Merced Police Department report, Rocha apologized to one of the women during a recorded phone conversation, saying he was sorry he displayed himself nude and offered her money for sex.

Before changing his plea, Rocha had denied forcing himself on either woman. He told police one of the women agreed to have sex with him in exchange for $10,000, according to the police report.

Rocha remains free on bail.

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