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Fifth trial begins for ex-jail guard on sex assault charges

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Former corrections officer Enock Arvizo is on trial yet again this week, this time on the same sex assault charges that a jury in September could not unanimously agree upon.

 Enock Arvizo

This is Arvizo’s fifth trial in a case alleging the Metropolitan Detention Center transport officer preyed on women inmates as he escorted them through the Downtown district courthouse. He resigned from his position at MDC soon after allegations were raised.

His case was initially set to be handled in three separate trials, one for each alleged victim. But two retrials were needed after jurors were unable to reach verdicts.

Previous juries found Arvizo, 34, guilty of raping one inmate in a courthouse elevator and attempting to kiss another. He remains out of custody.

Arvizo is facing charges of battery and criminal sexual penetration in the retrial before state District Judge Briana Zamora that began Wednesday.

Prosecutor Laura Horton said in her opening statement that Arvizo forced a woman inmate into oral and vaginal sex in a “cement, cinder block” inmate area beside the courtroom as she awaited a probation violation hearing in 2015. The inmate, who is now 26, asked Arvizo to take her into that area when she realized she’d accidentally left paperwork there.

Arvizo’s attorney, Stephen Lane, questioned why the woman first reported the alleged rape to a civil attorney known to sue institutions like MDC. And he told jurors that the alleged March assault was not investigated until September, at which point no evidence, like courthouse footage or from a sexual assault examination, could be collected.

“We have a complaining witness who can basically say anything she wants to,” Lane said, “because we know there’s no independent evidence out there, it’s all gone.”