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Appeal Denied in Twin Falls Sex Abuse Case after Flight for Mexico

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Valentin Calvillo

Valentin Calvillo

TWIN FALLS - The Idaho Appeals Court denied an appeal by a Twin Falls man convicted of lewd conduct against a 10-year-old girl after he fled his trial for Mexico.

The court's opinion was published Wednesday.

Following an investigation, Valentin Calvillo, now 52, was charged with eight counts of lewd conduct and two counts of sexual abuse of a minor.

At Calvillo's November 2010 trial, his attorney, Doug Nelson, told the court that the victim had a motivation to lie and that Calvillo was going to testify.

A number of officers and social workers testified to explain the process of the investigation. A nurse testified that an exam showed no physical signs of sexual abuse but said most sexual abuse victims have no physical signs. The victim and her mother also testified. A Spanish translator was used during the trial.

On Nov. 18, 2010, the day Calvillo was set to take the stand, he complained of illness to Nelson. Nelson told Calvillo to seek medical attention and come back to court as soon as possible. Calvillo never came back, but the trial continued and jurors convicted him on all but one count that they couldn't decide on.

During closing arguments, the prosecutor repeatedly referred to the victim's testimony as "uncontroverted."

In his appeal, Calvillo said the prosecutor's argument that the victim's testimony was undisputed was an indirect comment on his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

The appeals court disagreed, saying the prosecutor's words were in context of the whole trial and not intended to be a comment on Calvillo's failure to testify.

When he gave himself up to California authorities in May 2011, Calvillo admitted leaving for Mexico.

When he returned, Calvillo petitioned for a new trial, arguing he misunderstood instructions from his defense counsel when he was told to leave and seek medical treatment. With a new attorney, Calvillo unsuccessfully argued for a new trial during the summer and fall of 2011.

The state argued that Calvillo was never ill and intentionally fled in order to get new counsel and a new trial.

During one of his hearings, Calvillo stuck with the story that he was ill and misunderstood Nelson's instructions to leave; however, District Judge Richard Bevan concluded that Calvillo was feigning illness to prepare for his getaway.

"He was a persuasive actor in this regard - even convincing his seasoned defense counsel for his supposed ill health," Bevan wrote.

In November 2011, Calvillo was sentenced to serve 15 to 30 years in state prison.

Calvillo's new attorney, Virginia Bond, was in court again in June 2012, asking Bevan for an independent translator to go over transcripts from the case and look for errors in translation.

During one hearing, Calvillo's family began gesturing to say there was a mistranslation about why Calvillo felt sick the day of the trial, Bond told the court.

Twin Falls County Deputy Prosecutor Suzanne Craig said Calvillo claimed he didn't feel good about being in front of a jury, not that he was actually ill.

Bond has since withdrawn as the attorney on the case.


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