You’re a man who discovers your wife is having sex behind your back with another man. Would you kidnap him and have sex with him in public? This isn’t a hypothetical for 22-year-old Orange County resident Santiago Rivas Huerta. But I’ve jumped ahead of myself.
In early 2004, Maria Jose Cruz obtained the phone number for a 17-year-old guy we’ll call Adrian, because that’s his first name. He didn’t know her from, well, Adam. Nor did he know she was married. Adrian couldn’t resist when 14 days later Maria, 19, offered to take him to a Santa Ana motel. Six weeks into the relationship, a startled Adrian saw Maria out with another man. She told Adrian the guy was Huerta, her “significant other.” Adrian ended the affair, which prompted Maria to quip, “You’re going to be sorry.”
The next night, Maria called Adrian, explained that Huerta had left her and she wanted to see him. He agreed to meet outside a taco restaurant. Maria drove up in a white Nissan. Adrian jumped in—and heard the doors lock as Maria sped off. “Are you carrying a weapon?” she asked.
“Why would I be armed?” he said.
Maria drove to an alley, where a knife-and-stun-gun-wielding Huerta and another man jumped out of bushes and into the back seat of the car. The men attacked Adrian as Maria drove east for 56 miles. In the Moreno Valley, they pulled off Highway 60. According to testimony, Huerta’s friend suggested that Adrian kiss Huerta’s penis. Huerta considered the idea but voiced fear that Adrian might bite.
Instead, Huerta and his pal forced Adrian to his knees inside the vehicle. They then ordered him to face Maria as they yanked off his pants and underwear. “Now you’re going to know what my wife felt,” Huerta said before digitally penetrating Adrian’s anus. Next, Huerta removed his own pants and sodomized Adrian.
During the rape, Huerta threatened to cut off Adrian’s tongue if he didn’t stop crying. When he finished, he kept Adrian’s wallet and threw him to the street dressed only in boxer shorts and socks. A truck driver found Adrian at about 3 a.m. near a landfill. He’d suffered head and neck abrasions and deep tears to his anus which, according to a forensic nurse, caused bleeding from “blunt force trauma.”
After his arrest, Huerta offered no defense at trial. A jury convicted him of 13 felonies. The 5-foot-6-inch, 140-pound man appealed, claiming that while he might have inserted “something” into Adrian’s ass, an Orange County prosecutor didn’t prove it had been a penis.
A California appellate court considered Huerta’s argument but recently rejected it. “The evidence demonstrated that Huerta penetrated Adrian’s anus twice, the first time with what he believed was Huerta’s finger, and a second time with something larger,” wrote Justice Kathleen O’Leary. “There was sufficient circumstantial evidence for the jury to conclude Huerta inserted his penis into Adrian’s anus.”
For 90 minutes of gross stupidity and cruelty, Huerta—whose record had been clean except for an unsafe lane-change ticket—surrendered the next 21 years of his life to prison. Cruz got a three-year-sentence. The third assailant was never identified.
(Wednesdays at OCWeekly.com discover the depths of human depravity in Orange County, California.)
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—R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.