In November 2004, 26-year-old Domingo Calderon III was charged with aggravated sexual assault of his two sisters, ages 17 and 11, in September 2003 in Atascosa County, Texas.
In April, 2005, while the charges were pending, the two sisters told their mother the charges were false. Their mother told Calderon’s lawyer, who interviewed the sisters and confirmed that they were recanting.
The lawyer set up a meeting with the Atascaso County District Attorney’s Office.
Calderon’s mother and sisters went to the meeting, as well as his mother’s husband, the father of the two girls and Calderon. The prosecutor interviewed the older sister first and she recanted. When the younger girl was interviewed by the prosecutor, however, she did not recant this time, but instead affirmed that the allegation was true.
As a result, the prosecution dismissed only the charge relating to the 17-year-old girl.
On July 5, 2005, Calderon pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of indecency with his 11-year-old sister. The judge deferred an adjudication of guilty and placed Calderon on community supervision for 10 years.
On April 18, 2006, Calderon was arrested for violating probation because he refused to admit in sex-offender therapy that he had molested his 11-year-old sister. On May 31, 2006, Calderon’s probation was revoked and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
In September 2006, Calderon filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming he was innocent. He cited an affidavit signed by his sister -- then-14years-old -- in which she recanted.
In the affidavit, the girl said that she had been intimidated by her father’s presence at the initial meeting with the prosecutor and so she had backed off on her recantation. She said that her father had thrown her older sister out of the house after she recanted and had ordered Calderon out of the house as well. At least one other sibling had been banished from the home on another occasion after displeasing the father, she said.
Not long after the meeting, according to the affidavit, the girl wrote out a letter saying she was sorry and that the charge of sexual assault was untrue. She said she gave it to her mother to give to the prosecutor.
During the next two years, the case bounced between the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the trial court and two separate hearings were held to determine whether this note had been delivered to the prosecution prior to Calderon’s guilty plea.
On April 28, 2010, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld a finding by the trial court that the younger sister’s recantation—the note that she wrote and asked her mother to deliver to the prosecutor—was credible and was newly discovered evidence in the case. The appeals court set aside Calderon’s conviction.
On July 27, 2010, Calderon was released from prison. The charges were dismissed by the Atascaso County District Attorney’s Office on August 25, 2010.
– Maurice Possley