Judge rules defendant mentally competent to continue trial about Granite Pathways sexual assaults

·1 min read

Jun. 8—A judge restarted the sexual assault trial of Chasrick Heredia on Tuesday, five days after he injured himself at the Valley Street jail and started acting as if he were mentally unstable.

Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Amy Messer made her ruling shortly after a 90-minute hearing on whether Heredia, 27, is competent to stand trial.

Heredia is accused of the felonious sexual assault of teenage girls who walked away from the Granite Pathways treatment center in 2019.

His trial was delayed on Friday when he injured himself at jail and suffered apparent seizures. Defense lawyer Rusty Chadwick questioned on Monday whether Heredia is competent to stand trial, prompting his review by a mental health professional.

"We can't rush this process," Chadwick said.

But prosecutors urged Messer to rule that Heredia is competent. In filings, they pointed to a long list of behavior and statements that make his claims a ruse.

"We have someone who is making a mockery of this court system," said Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Shaylen Roberts.

Heredia's trial started last week. Three girls — ages 16, 15 and 15 — who walked away from the Granite Pathways treatment center in 2019 have testified. Heredia and a friend are charged with plying the girls with beer and having sex with them. Gov. Chris Sununu closed the treatment center, which focused on teens, after the assaults and several overdoses.

Heredia also faces charges of evidence tampering for getting a friend to delete a digital video of the encounter. Much of the evidence in that deals with telephone calls by Heredia to friends outside the Valley Street jail. Those were recorded, and prosecutors plan to play them for the jury.

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