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Man is convicted of kidnapping and rape of woman after she left Boston bar

Victor Peña testifies during his kidnapping and rape case at the Suffolk Superior Court on Monday.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

A jury on Tuesday convicted a former Charlestown man of abducting a woman as she left a Boston bar in January 2019 then repeatedly raping her over nearly three days while she was confined to his apartment.

Victor Peña, 42, was convicted of one count of kidnapping and 10 counts of aggravated rape. The jury took only about two hours to reach the verdict.

Each aggravated rape charge is punishable by up to life in prison at the judge’s discretion, prosecutors said. His sentencing is scheduled for Monday morning.

Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden said the victim in the case “rose to the challenge” when she described the terrifying ordeal on the witness stand last week.

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Jurors heard the victim, now 27, describe in horrific detail the assaults she endured in a grimy one-bedroom apartment. The woman testified that Peña threatened to kill her and she believed him and eventually stopped resisting.

“When the path to justice required her to recount those awful moments, she proved equal to the task. She was brave. She was articulate. She was in command of the facts,” Hayden said in a statement he read outside of the courtroom. “She gave the jury the evidence they needed to hold this man accountable for his horrible crimes.”

He added: “Emotional and physical scars may heal, but they never disappear. We have been here for her and her family since the beginning, and we will continue to be here for them.”

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Ian Polumbaum said after the hearing there was no evidence to support the defense’s assertion that Peña was mentally ill and lacked the capacity to know right from wrong.

“Victor Peña, undoubtedly, always knew what he was doing, was responsible for his actions, and experts who examined him came to the conclusion that he was feigning symptoms, and he was turning them on and off when he saw fit,” Polumbaum said.

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Peña’s lawyer, Lorenzo Perez, said he, Peña, and Pena’s family disagree with the outcome of the case, “but the bottom line is we have to respect the jury’s verdict.”

Peña “reacted as you would expect, very unfavorably” Perez said by telephone Tuesday afternoon. “He adamantly and repeatedly requested that he go to Bridgewater [State Hospital],” he said. “That started before the trial, throughout the trial, and even while we waited for the jury verdict. That was his will.”

Prone to outbursts, Peña listened to the verdict, and the entire trial, via Zoom from another room in the courthouse.

Perez said he truly believes Peña and others with mental health issues are better served in state hospitals with treatment rather than incarcerated. “Jail is not the place for him,” Perez said. “I think it’s a short-sighted solution to a long-term problem.”

Earlier Tuesday, during his closing argument in Suffolk Superior Court, Perez did not deny that his client took the woman to his apartment, held her in fear, and had sex with her against her will. He instead asked the jury to find Peña not guilty because of a mental defect.

“The defendant committed the crimes, but because of the mental defect, he lacks criminal responsibility,” Perez told the jury in his closing argument.

He highlighted Peña’s rambling, animated testimony Monday — where he at times stood in the witness box, waving his arms and lifting his shirt to show ribs that he said were broken by police — to underscore his mental issues.

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“That’s what everybody’s seeing; that’s what everybody’s hearing when he thinks and speaks, evidence of a mental defect” Perez said.

And the victim sensed it, too, Perez said.

“She complied because he’s psychologically unstable, and she sees and hears that,” he said. “His psychological instability was scarier to her than a gun or a knife.”

A not-guilty verdict because of a mental defect would not set Peña free, Perez told the jury. Instead he would be committed to a state mental hospital where he would be evaluated every six months, possibly for the rest of his life.

Polumbaum countered in his closing argument Tuesday that Peña’s mental issues were nonsense coming from a manipulative, predatory sadist.

“We can agree on bizarre, we can agree on beside the norm, we can agree on twisted, unusual, maybe even agree on crazy in the colloquial sense — but not in the legal sense,” Polumbaum said.

That would mean Peña did not know right from wrong or couldn’t conform to the law, Polumbaum said. “He knows what’s going on,” he said. “He knows about legal consequences.”

Peña’s self-serving testimony that the sex was consensual was proof of that, Polumbaum said. “He told you what he wanted to tell you.”

Dr. John Young, a forensic psychologist who evaluated Peña, testified Monday Peña “lacked any genuine symptoms, delusions, or hallucinations” that amounted to a major mental illness or disorder.

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“That leaves only some phantom defect,” Polumbaum said. “It’s a request for you to speculate.”

No, Polumbaum argued, Peña zeroed in on somebody who was obviously “helplessly drunk.”

“This was about taking what he wanted when he wanted and for however long he wanted,” he said.



Tonya Alanez can be reached at tonya.alanez@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @talanez.