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Forum staff reports, Published November 14 2012

Willmar man’s life sentence upheld

WILLMAR, Minn. – The state Court of Appeals has affirmed a 53-year-old Willmar man’s conviction of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and his life prison sentence for sexually assaulting a woman in July 2010 in an alley near the Willmar Eagles Club.

In an unpublished opinion issued Tuesday, the appeals court affirmed the conviction of Jose Santoya Juarez.

Juarez was indicted by a grand jury on four counts – attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct, second-degree criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping and third-degree assault – for the July 27, 2010, attack. He waived his right to a jury trial and was found guilty of all four counts by District Judge Kathryn N. Smith in Kandiyohi County District Court. Smith sentenced Juarez in October 2011 to life in prison based on Juarez’s prior conviction for criminal sexual conduct in 1997 and because he forced his victim 209 feet into a small, narrow alley before assaulting her. Those two factors constituted the “heinous element” required by the state to justify a life sentence.