Victor M. Pena has been jailed without bond for three years, after an intense search for a woman who disappeared after leaving a downtown bar led police to his Charlestown apartment, where the woman had been held for three days.
Now, Pena is seeking immediate release for medical treatment for tumors, according to a defense motion filed last week.
It was the latest twist in the sensational case. Last September, with witness and exhibit lists complete and jurors ready to be seated for trial in Suffolk Superior Court, Pena fired his private lawyer because he refused to defend the case by saying the victim was a prostitute, which was a baseless claim, according to court filings.
And last month, Pena fought with and fired his subsequent defense lawyers, who were appointed from the Committee for Public Counsel Services, claiming that lead counsel was a “puppet” paid by police to kill him in his cell, court records show.
Pena’s trial, which had been rescheduled to May, is now delayed until June. Associate Justice Anthony M. Campo is contemplating his ruling on the request for medical release.
Prosecutors, who have grown weary of Pena’s outbursts, bizarre behavior, and efforts to derail going to trial, say Pena’s “release would pose a danger to any vulnerable woman he encounters,” according to court documents filed Jan. 25.
Pena, who at times has wept and appeared to talk to himself in court, has been charged with kidnapping and 10 counts of aggravated rape, court records show. He has pleaded not guilty.
Although Pena has no significant convictions, he has a history of abusive and intrusive conduct toward women, prosecutors wrote, citing police and court records from Boston, New York, and the MBTA.
Court records filed by prosecutors depict a defendant who clinicians have labeled “manipulative” and “malingering,” who speaks out of turn, makes faces, grins, and waves at the camera during Zoom hearings, and disrupts in-person hearings with irrational ramblings.
Prosecutors have urged against further trial delays, saying that the pandemic already has caused the case to linger, with Pena’s stall tactics compounding it.
“Further delays almost inevitably harm the Commonwealth’s case as memories fade and witnesses change homes and jobs,” prosecutors wrote.
In a separate bid for release in January, Pena sought bail on claims that COVID-19 at the South Bay Correctional Institute, where he is being held, “endangers his health” and that his right to a speedy trial had been violated. It was unclear from court records if Campo ruled on that request.
Pena’s most recent court-appointed attorney, Lorenzo Perez, did not return calls seeking comment Friday.
When prosecutors in January urged the judge to reconsider letting Pena dismiss his appointed lawyers, they wrote: “While Pena this time did not wait until the morning of impanelment to turn against his counsel, doing so three months prior to trial imperils the current May 2 trial date.”
“This court can infer that Pena is seeking to disrupt and delay the trial of this case, despite his explicit denial of the latter,” wrote Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Ian Polumbaum.
For years, Pena lived on the fringes of society, passing through homeless shelters before landing in public housing, where a relative said he hoarded books and stuffed animals.
In past interviews with the Globe, Pena’s older brother, Jose Pena, said Pena’s mental capacity was sharply reduced at about 7 years old, when his family found him in his room suffering from a medical problem that had cut off oxygen to his brain.
In January, Jose Pena offered to pay $4,000 to $5,000 bail for his brother and help him secure a place to live, according to a motion for bail.
In that motion, Pena’s lawyer, Perez, wrote: “Although his charges are serious, he denies these charges and is presumed innocent, and there is no allegation that he used a weapon, no physical injury to the alleged victim, and no attempt to call for help during the time of the supposed kidnapping.”
When police burst into Pena’s Charlestown apartment they found the 23-year-old victim sobbing and horrified. Pena, then 38, stood in the kitchen, ready to fight, according to a police report. Three officers rushed him and wrestled him into handcuffs; four officers swept inside and ushered the victim out.
The dramatic rescue ended a frantic citywide search for the missing woman, who three days earlier on Jan. 19, 2019, had walked out of Hennessey’s bar and allegedly into Pena’s grasp.
Police had first glimpsed Pena on surveillance video, following the woman as she walked down Congress Street, and then at times carrying her on Washington Street. He next escorted her onto the MBTA Orange Line and walked her to his apartment.
The woman woke up the next morning with no memory of what had happened, according to prosecutors.
“He told her that he was overjoyed that he rescued her and they should start a family together,” prosecutors wrote in their opposition to bail.
When she began to search for her clothes to leave, Pena threatened to kill her, prosecutors wrote. His apartment door had a deadbolt on the inside that required a key.
According to prosecutors, Pena forced the woman to drink vodka and whisky and to read aloud from the Bible. He took several hundred photos of her, along with six videos.
“She cleaned his apartment to make it less intolerable and to delay additional rapes,” prosecutors wrote.
The victim, according to prosecutors’ filings, is eager to put this traumatic episode behind her and has intentions of leaving Massachusetts permanently once the case has concluded.