By Cynthia Koons
The one man left to be sentenced for the brutal gang rape in Flushing Meadows Corona Park last December must undergo further psychological review before he is sentenced, Judge Randall Eng ruled Tuesday.
“I have to agree with the defense that the defendant has to be fit to proceed with all the stages of the sentencing,” Eng said in Queens County Criminal Court in Kew Gardens. The sentencing was adjourned until March 24.
Jose Hernandez, 29, was surrounded by four guards in court Tuesday. He is one of five homeless immigrants who pled guilty in a plea deal that spared the victim the ordeal of testifying in court.
Hernandez along with Luis Carmona, 21, Armando Juvenal, 21, Carlos Rodriguez, 23, and Victor Cruz, 23 approached a couple on a walk through the park last December and attacked them, robbing them of their money and jewelry, according to police. The men held the woman captive in a makeshift shack during a lengthy gang rape in which they threatened her with death, the district attorney said.
The woman’s male companion was able to summon help from a police canine unit, which found the woman after the three-hour ordeal.
The other four defendants were sentenced to 21 to 23 years in prison within the past two months. During the first sentencing, an emotional letter from the woman was read in court.
“I would like for them to spend their entire life in prison,” the letter said. “I feel that the way they brutally raped me, one after the other, dragging, punching and hitting me, they took my life, my soul.”
At the request of his defense attorney, Hernandez was subjected to a psychological test, which gave a slightly ambiguous reading as to his mental capacity. But the judge still used it as evidence to submit him for further mental testing.
“The document itself is inherently contradictory in nature,” Eng said of the report. The psychologists’ findings first stated that Hernandez did not lack the capacity to understand the court proceedings but then went on to say he was not fit to be sentenced.
“He demonstrated significant impairment in communicating,” defense attorney Robert Miller said. “He’s been hospitalized in Mexico according to what he’s told me and he’s had problems in his head.”
Depending on the results of the next report, Hernandez may be sent to a psychiatric hospital, prosecutor Ken Appelbaum said.
Appelbaum said the psychological report gave no diagnosis as to Hernandez’s condition and therefore should not be a consideration in the sentencing.
“It is our position that this is in no way aiding the sentencing,” Appelbaum said. “He’s admitted his culpability in both crimes, the bail jumping and the Flushing Meadows (gang rape).”
The results of the second study will be presented at the March 24 court date.
Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.