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UVa grad student accused of raping schoolmate faces similar charges in New York City

The University of Virginia graduate student recently arrested on sexual assault charges faces similar charges 340 miles away in his hometown of New York City.

Derek Rodriguez-Contreras may have to miss his next hearing on those New York charges, however, as his attorney in Virginia was not ready to urge bail on Monday.

"Not today, judge," attorney Anthony Martin told the Albemarle County Circuit Court. "I’m still in the very early informational-gathering stage."

Martin will get another chance to urge his client’s pretrial release on Feb. 23. However, that date is two days after a planned hearing in New York, where Rodriguez-Contreras stands accused of sexual abuse, harassment and aggravated harassment. The 22-year-old defendant has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Having completed an undergraduate degree in media studies last spring at UVa, Rodriguez-Contreras was studying for a master’s at UVa’s McIntire School of Commerce until his Feb. 7 arrest on the local charges, which include rape, malicious wounding and sexual battery.

Whether Rodriguez-Contreras remains a student is unclear. Within hours of his arrest, his "student ambassador" profile on the McIntire School’s website was taken down.

UVa spokesman Brian Coy said the university is aware of the case, but said the school would not comment on student records.

"We take claims of this nature seriously and act quickly to investigate them and to support individuals who come forward," Coy told The Daily Progress in an email.

Albemarle County police announced that their investigation into Rodriguez-Contreras began in late November, two months after a UVa undergraduate student was reportedly raped at an apartment in Albemarle County.

Asked about the two-month delay, a police spokeswoman declined to comment but noted in a message sent to The Daily Progress that "sexual assault investigations are handled with extreme care and consideration for the victim."

"After the initial report is made to law enforcement, the reporting party can decide whether or not they would like to move forward with an investigation at that time or a later date still within the statute of limitations provided by Virginia law," spokeswoman Logan Bogert said.

According to court records, the alleged New York assault occurred on Dec. 30, after the reported Albemarle assault. Those records also show Rodriguez-Contreras was arrested that same day and at an arraignment hearing declared himself not guilty.

The New York court file indicates that the charges there emanate from the Lower East Side of Manhattan. And all three charges are listed as misdemeanors, with the most severe bearing a one-year maximum penalty.

There’s no evidence in his Albemarle court file that Rodriguez-Contreras was incarcerated at the time of his Albemarle arrest. The maximum penalty for rape in Virginia is life in prison.

During Monday’s hearing, the chained and bound defendant was wearing the gray and white horizontal stripes of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. While sitting upright beside his court-appointed attorney, he made frequent eye contact with a group of four friends watching silently from the gallery.

Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins said that the Feb. 23 hearing might include both pretrial motions and a bail request.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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