Harvard man was ‘a predator,’ prosecutors say, when he allegedly assaulted a girl

J. Santos Nova-Rivera

McHenry County prosecutors argued in closing arguments Wednesday that a Harvard man was “a predator” when alone with a young girl and decided to “take a chance” when he sexually assaulted her.

J. Santos Nova-Rivera, 37, held in the McHenry County jail on $200,000 bond since his arrest Jan. 30, 2020, had his case heard in a bench trial this week before Judge Michael Coppedge. He is charged with two counts of Class X predatory sexual assault of a child younger than 13.

If convicted, when the judge renders his decision April 12, he faces between six and 30 years in prison.

Assistant State’s Attorney Ashur Youash said the two girl he is charged with sexually assaulting in 2015 and 2016 would often go to his home where he would “take the chance” to touch her private parts.

The girl, now 16, was 9 and 10 years old at the time of the alleged assaults, prosecutors said.

Youash referred to testimony from earlier this week when the girl was asked why she did not report the abuse before 2020, which was when he was arrested and charged. The girl said she did not know it was wrong, Youash said.

“But, he knew. He did. He knew it was wrong,” Youash told the judge.

Although Nova-Rivera is currently on trial on charges involving one girl, he still faces another case on same charges involving a second girl. That girl would have been 11 and 12 years old at the time she was allegedly sexually assaulted by Nova-Rivera.

The second girl also testified this week to similar alleged sexual assaults.

Nova-Rivera’s defense attorney Robert Ritacca said both of the girls’ testimony lacked credibility and their statements were not believable because of the wording they used in describing the alleged assaults and the delay of five or six years in reporting the alleged assaults.

Their allegations lacked “spontaneity,” he said. Ritacca also questioned why the girls never reported the alleged assault to each other, a parent or police at the time of the alleged abuse.

He said the second girl only made allegations after the first girl said she was assaulted.

“I’m sorry, but lightning does not happen twice,” Ritacca said.

Ritacca also said of the allegations “it doesn’t make sense.”

The girls were in a home with other children and unsupervised at the time of the alleged assaults, he said.

Assistant State’s Attorney Tyler Miken said they were not unsupervised because they were supervised by Nova-Rivera.

“[The girls] came into court, to tear open their scars. They bared their soul to you. ... There is no reason for them to do that,” Miken said to the judge.

“There is trauma there at the sight of him,” Miken said, raising his voice, pointing at Nova-Rivera and calling him a “predator [who] preyed on children.”

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