Mistrial in San Miguel child molestation case could lead to more charges

Jose Antonio Rojas Barriga
Jose Antonio Rojas Barriga

A San Miguel man accused of 21 counts of child molestation could face numerous more charges after his jury trial was abruptly halted and declared a mistrial Tuesday.

Jose Antonio Rojas Barriga, 60, has pleaded not guilty to the charges that involve two alleged victims.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office, the alleged victims were both about 10 years old when the abuse is said to have occurred. At different times, the boys allegedly lived on the same property as the defendant but in different homes.

Rojas Barriga was charged with 20 offenses allegedly committed against one boy, now 12, and Rojas Barriga was charged with one offense allegedly committed against a second boy, now 16. The offenses against the younger boy allegedly occurred at different times in 2013 and 2014, while the older boy was allegedly molested sometime in 2010.

Rojas Barriga was arrested in September 2014 at his place of employment. During questioning by detectives, he denied culpability, according to court records.

The defense had intended to claim that Rojas Barriga suffered from erectile dysfunction and would not have been able to commit the acts for which he is accused, according to a motion filed by the prosecution.

This is the process working.

Defense attorney Matt Guerrero

After a jury was selected last week, testimony began in the case. The 12-year-old testified, as did his parents, to the 20 charges allegedly committed against him. On Friday, the 16-year-old boy took the stand. Although the older boy was expected to testify about the one offense believed to have been committed against him, he testified that Rojas Barriga had molested him 15 to 20 times total.

After San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge John Trice stopped the boy from testifying, defense attorney Matt Guerrero asked for a mistrial outside the jury’s presence.

During a hearing on that motion Tuesday, Guerrero said accusations made in court that were not included in the prosecution’s complaint would prejudice the jury against his client.

Deputy District Attorney Julie Antos argued that a mistrial was not needed.

“It’s pretty standard in a trial that things come up that we didn’t know about before,” Antos said in court.

Trice said the boy’s unsolicited allegations would be difficult for the jury to ignore.

There is a possibility of new charges based on this new disclosure.

Deputy District Attorney Julie Antos

“It’s not anyone’s fault,” Trice said as he declared a mistrial.

The jury was dismissed in the afternoon.

“The information was prejudiced and could not be cured by a jury instruction,” Guerrero said afterward.

With that in mind, he said, a new trial had to be ordered.

“This is the process working,” he said. “My client has faith in the system, but when the uncharged allegations came up, to the surprise of the parties, in order to ensure a fair trial, (the charges) need to be vetted.”

Antos said her office will discuss whether to charge Rojas Barriga with more counts.

“There is the possibility of new charges based on this new disclosure,” Antos told The Tribune.

Attorneys in the case are set to begin selecting a new jury March 15. The two boys will be expected to testify again.

Patrick S. Pemberton: 805-781-7903