A former Army sergeant on trial for a second time on charges of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl vehemently denied that he touched her, saying he is a law-abiding person.
“I’m not that type of person,” defendant Nathan Rojas said on the stand Thursday. “I’m a law-abiding person. I would never do that. I have kids of my own.”
It was the last day of testimony in the retrial before Cochise County Superior Judge James Conlogue.
A jury convicted Rojas of the assault in July 2018. But because a news blogger in the courtroom took video of the proceedings and later published it on social media, showing the faces of some of the jurors, a new trial was granted. The Arizona Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the Cochise County Superior Court judge who granted the new trial.
The incident occurred Aug. 25, 2016, when the child was 5 and attending Rojas’ mother’s daycare at the mother’s Sierra Vista residence.
Rojas lived a few houses from his mother and was accused of taking the girl from the daycare and assaulting her in his bedroom, investigators said.
At the start of Rojas’ trial on July 8, Cochise County Deputy Attorney Terisha Driggs told jurors, “You are here today because the defendant had sexual misconduct with a 5-year-old girl.”
Driggs described the events. Driggs told jurors that the girl — who is not being named because of her age — would not tell her mother later that day what occurred because it was “mine and Nathan’s secret.”
The child’s mother called a friend who is a nurse practitioner and asked her to come to her residence. The girl told the nurse what had happened. The nurse told the girl’s mother to call police.
Last week, when the girl — who is now 9 — testified, she said she was assaulted by Rojas and was physically hurt. She recalled she thought she and Rojas were going to his residence to “get snacks.”
Rojas’ wife, Erin Rojas, testified, as did his mother, Suzette Gray. The girl and her mother also testified. The girl’s mother is not being identified in order to protect the child’s identity.
The defense wrapped up its questioning on Thursday afternoon with Rojas as its last witness. Closing arguments are expected in the morning, and then the 12-member jury will deliberate the case.