Trial underway for Crystal Lake man accused of sexually abusing disabled woman

Fidel Espinoza pleaded not guilty to the criminal sexual abuse battery charges filed against him in connection with the Feb. 21, 2017, allegations

The trial began Tuesday for a 63-year-old Crystal Lake man accused of inappropriately touching an intellectually disabled woman in 2017.

Prosecutors on Tuesday played a recorded interview during which the woman, then 23, described how Fidel Espinoza made unwanted physical contact with her at a friend’s house.

Espinoza has pleaded not guilty to each count of criminal sexual abuse and battery filed against him in connection with the Feb. 21, 2017, allegations.

According to the woman, Espinoza answered the door when she arrived at her friend’s house before a party and touched her inappropriately before the night ended. Espinoza offered an apology later that evening, but the woman did not accept, she said in the recorded interview with the Child Advocacy Center.

Instead, the woman reported the situation to her parents and the family notified the police, she said.

On Tuesday, prosecutors asked the woman to point to the man who abused her, but rather than identifying Espinoza as the perpetrator, the woman pointed to an assistant McHenry County state’s attorney. The attorney was not assigned to Espinoza’s case but was present in the courtroom watching the trial. He faces no charges.

Prosecutors later called that attorney as a witness to testify that he has no relationship to the case, the woman or Espinoza.

During the woman’s recorded interview with the Child Advocacy Center, she described the alleged abuser as her friend’s father. Police who investigated the woman’s initial report additionally identified Espinoza in court Tuesday as the accused.

Espinoza faced similar allegations in 2002 when he was accused of inappropriately touching a 16-year-old girl whose father rented property from Espinoza at the time. Espinoza ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of battery in 2004 and received two years of court supervision, court records show.

An attorney who previously represented Espinoza on the most recent charges claimed in court filings that the 2002 allegations were “clouded in uncertainty” and “hotly disputed.”

The girl’s father in that case allegedly made statements to a Boone County sheriff’s deputy describing “how the 16-year old alleged victim and her mother fabricated the allegations against Mr. Espinoza” for money, Espinoza’s former attorney Philip Prossnitz wrote in a Nov. 11, 2018, court filing.

The trial-by-judge for Espinoza’s most recent case is scheduled to continue Wednesday morning with additional testimony from state witnesses.

Katie Smith

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.