Crystal Lake man acquitted of 2017 sexual abuse, battery charges

McHenry County judge found Fidel Espinoza not guilty, in part, because the alleged victim misidentified the perpetrator in court Tuesday

A McHenry County judge on Wednesday found a Crystal Lake man not guilty of sexually abusing an intellectually disabled woman in 2017 since the woman couldn’t identify the accused man in court.

McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge granted 63-year-old Fidel Espinoza’s motion for a directed finding Wednesday. The ruling means that Espinoza was found not guilty on all counts of criminal sexual abuse and battery before his attorney presented the man’s defense during a trial-by-judge that began Tuesday.

“The judge made the only decision that he could,” Espinoza’s attorney, Matthew J. Haiduk, said after court Wednesday.

Espinoza was arrested in 2017 on charges alleging that he inappropriately touched a 23-year-old woman at his Crystal Lake home. The man was accused of sexually abusing his adult daughter’s friend before attending an event in the evening.

Espinoza also attempted to apologize to the woman later that night when he drove the two women home, she said during a video-recorded Child Advocacy Center interview.

On Wednesday, Haiduk asked the judge to find Espinoza not guilty, in part, because the alleged victim in the case twice identified a McHenry County assistant state’s attorney as the perpetrator, rather than Espinoza.

The assistant state’s attorney was not assigned to Espinoza’s case but was present in the courtroom watching the trial.

Prosecutors called that attorney as a witness on Tuesday when he testified that he has no relationship to the case, the woman or Espinoza.

“There is no question in the court’s mind that [the prosecutor] was misidentified,” Coppedge said in court Wednesday.

According to the judge, however, the fact that the woman identified another person who in no way resembled Espinoza begged another question: Was there someone else in the house that day who matched the assistant state’s attorney’s physical appearance?

Based on that discrepancy, Coppedge “albeit reluctantly” granted Haiduk’s motion and found Espinoza not guilty on all counts.

Aside from the mistaken in-court identification, Haiduk also argued that the manner in which Espinoza was alleged to have groped the girl was suspect based on how the two were said to be positioned during the alleged acts.

“What’s she’s saying is impossible,” Haiduk said in court Wednesday.

Still, Coppedge noted in his decision that the woman appeared to him “vibrant and engaging” and “should not have had to experience that or the trauma that followed.”

“There is no question that an act of sexual conduct was committed on [the woman],” Coppedge said.

Reached by phone Wednesday morning, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally declined to comment.

Katie Smith

Katie has reported on the crime and courts beat for the Northwest Herald since 2017. She began her career with Shaw Media in 2015 at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, where she reported on the courts, city council, the local school board, and business.