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Trial Date Set for Man Charged with Raping 9-Year-Old Ohio Girl Who Obtained Abortion in Indiana After Dobbs Decision

Gerson Fuentes appears in a jail booking photo.

Gerson Fuentes. (Image via the Franklin County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office.)

A 27-year-old man charged with raping and impregnating a 9-year-old Ohio girl has been scheduled to go on trial in October. The case generated national controversy when the victim traveled to Indiana to secure an abortion in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health overturning Roe v. Wade.

Gerson Fuentes is charged with two counts of rape involving a victim “less than ten years of age,” according to an indictment in the case. One of the two counts involves allegations between Jan. 1, 2022 and May 11, 2022.  The other count involves an alleged May 12, 2022 incident.

Fuentes is charged in Franklin County, Ohio’s Court of Common Pleas. He pleaded not guilty to the counts against him, the court docket indicates.

“Gerson Fuentes,” an indictment alleges, “did engage in sexual conduct, to wit: vaginal intercourse, with [redacted] who was not the spouse of the offender, whose age at the time of the said sexual conduct was less than thirteen years of age, to wit: nine years old, whether or not the offender knew the age of [redacted]. Furthermore, the victim was less than ten years of age.”

A police report dated June 22 lists the the victim only by the initials “HVN.” An affidavit says HVN identified Fuentes “as the suspect who raped her.”

According to a July report in the Columbus Dispatch, a detective testified at Fuentes’ arraignment. That detective, Jeffrey Huhn, reportedly said that the victim received an abortion in Indianapolis on June 30. Huhn also reportedly testified that DNA from the clinic in Indianapolis was being tested against buccal swab samples from Fuentes and the victim’s siblings.

The case touched off a firestorm of national controversy.

In a report published Friday, July 1, the Indianapolis Star said a doctor relayed several vague details about a case virtually identical to the one now charged against Fuentes.  Specifically, the doctor said a young girl was forced to travel to Indiana because Ohio law banned abortions after six weeks in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow states to criminalize the procedure as they wished.

The girl was reportedly six weeks and three days pregnant.

A number of questions and contentions about the veracity of the abortion doctor’s story were immediately raised by conservatives and Republicans.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) told FOX News on July 12 that there had been “not a whisper” of evidence to back up the story about the girl, who by the time of the abortion had turned ten years old.

The filing of the charges against Fuentes rebutted those concerns as to the core facts of the matter.

However, attacks on the abortion provider, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, quickly began to revolve around questions of whether the legal recordkeeping and notification requirements had been followed after the abortion was performed. An investigation by myriad news organizations, public officials, and Bernard’s hospital swiftly revealed that the requisite forms had, indeed, been duly and properly filed.

The forms were revealed publicly one day after Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Republican, indicated on both FOX News and in a press release that he was “investigating” the situation because Bernard, in his view, had a “history of failing to report” abortions.  Therefore, he said in the press release, he would “not relent” until he was sure Bernard had not committed “a crime in Indiana” or any other behavior that “could also affect her licensure.”

“We’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure, if she failed to report, and in Indiana it’s a crime to not report, to intentionally not report,” Rokita threatened on FOX News just one day before journalists obtained proof that Bernard had, indeed, filed the necessary documentation.

Rokita did not elaborate at the time about what he claimed was Bernard’s “history of failing to report,” Law&Crime previously noted. Law&Crime also previously noted that some of Rokita’s rebuke of Bernard was based on a rather dubious batch of consumer complaints.

Indiana law requires any adult who believes that child abuse is taking place report the alleged abuse to either law enforcement or child welfare authorities. State law also requires doctors to report every abortion that is provided in the state within 30 days of the procedure. That window narrows to just three days if the patient is under 16 years old.

On July 19, Dr. Bernard filed a Notice of Tort Claim against Rokita and the office of the Indiana Attorney General for making false statements. The state has 90 days to investigate or settle the claim before Bernard can file a defamation lawsuit, Law&Crime has previously noted.

Pretrial maneuvers in the Fuentes case have remained ongoing in Ohio during the heated political debate in Indiana.

A trial on Oct. 13 at 9:00 a.m. has been scheduled, according to court paperwork dated Tues., Aug. 30.

An earlier document dated Aug. 22 says prosecutors have compiled as evidence a “recorded statement” from the defendant, reports from peace officers, video of “witness interviews,” and some “evidence favorable to” the defendant — which prosecutors must turn over to the defense to comply with the U.S. Constitution. It is unclear from the forms precisely what the “favorable” evidence might be.

Also listed as potential evidence is the criminal record of the defendant, though a defendant’s rap sheet is usually not allowed during a criminal trial on subsequent dissimilar charges unless the defendant testifies.

Expert reports are also contemplated but are not fully described.

Columbus, Ohio FOX affiliate WTTE reported that Fuentes could be imprisoned for life without parole if he’s convicted as charged.

Some of the case file is below:

[Editor’s note: this report has been updated to include additional detail from Rokita’s statements regarding Bernard and to clarify that his office promised an investigation into the matter with only hypothetical end results.]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.