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Francis Madeus

Other Sexual-Assault Exonerations with Perjury or False Accusation
At about 4:30 a.m. on January 13, 2014, a 24-year-old woman in the village of Dededo on the north shore of Guam told police that she had just been sexually assaulted by a group of young men.

The woman, known in court papers as S.R., said she was walking home from a relative’s house when as many as five men approached her and then held her down while they beat her and raped her.

The Guam Police Department arrived quickly and arrested Minorichy Rugante, Francis Madeus and Jose White Longa, charging each with 1st and 3rd degree criminal sexual conduct, conspiracy, assault, felonious restraint, and kidnapping.

Rugante and Madeus were tried together in Guam Superior Court, beginning February 10, 2015. By then, Longa had pled guilty to several of the charges and agreed to testify against his co-defendants.

He testified that the three men had been drinking vodka in a park in downtown Dededo when S.R. walked by. He said they punched her in the face, pinned her down, and then sexually assaulted her.

After S.R. called the police, the FBI tested evidence from the crime scene. An FBI forensic examiner testified that DNA samples from S.R.’s breasts and shorts either excluded Madeus as a contributor or were inconclusive. He said that Madeus was identified as a major contributor to DNA found on a black T-shirt near where S.R. said she was attacked.

Rugante was excluded as a contributor from semen found in S.R’s vaginal area, and testing from other areas was inconclusive.

S.R.’s testimony was often confusing and contradictory. She testified that Madeus, who was her nephew, beat her and also that he didn’t beat her. Because S.R. spoke only Chuukese, an Austronesian language spoken in just a handful of places in the Pacific, her testimony to the jury relied on a translator, and she was unable to understand what the translator said.

That language barrier was at the heart of Madeus’s defense. His attorney told jurors that this was essentially a case of mistaken identity; Madeus was in the area when the assault happened but that he did not take part in the attack. The attorney said that because of translation issues, the police misunderstood S.R.’s statement about the attack and her assailants.

The jury convicted Rugante and Madeus on February 21, 2015. Rugante received a 15-year sentence for his convictions on two charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and second-degree kidnapping. Madeus received a 10-year sentence for his convictions on two charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and second-degree kidnapping. Longa received a 10-year sentence.

On March 3, 2015, S.R. recanted her testimony against Madeus. In an affidavit, she said that the translator had likely erred in relaying her testimony to the jury. She said that Madeus wasn’t one of the men who beat her, kidnapped her, and sexually assaulted her. But the woman said Madeus had seen her prior to the attack, and they had argued after he told her not to be in the park at that hour.

“I actually hit him to get away from me because I did not want to leave that area,” she said. “I tried to communicate to the police officers that helped me that I knew Francis Madeus and that he was my nephew. I do not know if they understood me. I did not identify him as committing any crime against me.”

S.R.’s affidavit had no immediate impact.

Separately, nineteen months after the convictions, Rugante filed a motion for a new trial based on the prosecution’s failure to turn over exculpatory evidence. The evidence was contained in a 2016 report that said S.R. had been evaluated twice, in 2008 and 2010. Both evaluations said S.R. abused alcohol and that her cognitive abilities had declined. In addition, the doctor who wrote the 2008 report expressed concerns with S.R.’s ability to recall and sequence events.

The trial court rejected Rugante’s appeal, noting that the 2016 report had been prepared after the conviction. Rugante and Madeus then filed separate appeals addressing the underlying evaluations contained in the 2016 report. Each claimed that the evaluations addressed S.R.’s credibility as a witness and that the failure of prosecutors to turn over these evaluations violated their right to a fair trial.

In separate opinions, each filed on December 18, 2019, the Supreme Court of Guam vacated their convictions and ordered new trials.

In Madeus’s case, the justices wrote, “Because of the evidentiary importance of S.R.’s testimony and her statements after the alleged crime, we find that the suppression of the psychological reports has undermined our confidence in the outcome.”

Madeus was released on bond on February 21, 2020. Rugante pled guilty to third-degree criminal sexual conduct and second-degree kidnapping on February 16, 2021. Prosecutors dismissed Madeus’s charges on March 24, 2021.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 5/3/2021
Last Updated: 5/3/2021
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Kidnapping
Reported Crime Date:2014
Sentence:10 years
Age at the date of reported crime:
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No