Julio Morales almost got away with rape because of an arcane law.
The Los Angeles County resident was convicted in December 2010 of raping a woman while attending a party by pretending to be her boyfriend while she slept in another room. But the California Court of Appeal for the Second District tossed the conviction because state law only applied to raped women who were tricked into thinking they were having sex with their husband.
Boyfriend impersonators got to skate free, until the Legislature revised the 1872 statute last September. Morales was retried, found guilty in March and sentenced to three years in state prison Thursday.
Morales, of Norwalk, had snuck into the intoxicated 18-year-old woman's room after her boyfriend left, climbed into bed while she slept and began having intercourse with her. The woman testified she didn't know it wasn't her boyfriend until some light hit his face. She screamed, he ran, the police showed up and Morales was arrested hiding outside in the bushes.
A key issue for the appellate court was that the act involved “fraud in the inducement rather than fraud in the fact.” If Morales had told the victim he would do one thing and then did another, that would be fraud in the fact. But misleading someone in order to gain consent is fraud of inducement and perfectly legal, although a tad dishonorable.
Justice Thomas Willhite Jr. wrote in the court’s opinion:
“A man enters the dark bedroom of an unmarried woman after seeing her boyfriend leave late at night, and has sexual intercourse with the woman while pretending to be the boyfriend. . . . Has the man committed rape? Because of historical anomalies in the law and the statutory definition of rape, the answer is no, even though, if the woman had been married and the man had impersonated her husband, the answer would be yes.”
The court recommended the state change the law and the case be retried. Victims advocates and the public in general were horrified. Ironically, a bill to change the law had already been introduced by Assembly member Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo) but was bottled up in committee.
The Morales case sprung it. The Assembly and Senate unanimously passed an update to the penal code and Morales was convicted of rape. He will be required to register as a sex offender when he gets out.