ARNSTABLE – A man held in jail for nearly a year based on accusations he raped and assaulted his wife was released Wednesday after her testimony was called into question and she was taken into custody on possible perjury charges.
In March 2011, Francisca DeOliveira, 46, claimed her husband, Jesus Figueroa, 40, had raped and assaulted her. Figueroa was ordered held without bail because of a probation violation and indicted in May in Barnstable Superior Court on charges of rape, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and threatening to commit a crime.
Figueroa, who is from Puerto Rico, was ordered held on $12,500 bail, which he never posted, his defense attorney, Peter Aspesi, said.
“From the day I met him, he said he was innocent,” Aspesi said.
Figueroa told Aspesi that his wife, who is from Brazil, was upset because he wanted a divorce, and she was worried about her immigration status, Aspesi said.
There was no physical evidence of an assault, such as ligature marks, despite the accusation that Figueroa wrapped a chord around her neck, Aspesi said.
A jury was selected in the case Monday, and DeOliveira testified Tuesday but could not keep her story straight, Aspesi said.
The timeline she provided was inconsistent, and she said things that she had stated differently in the past, he said.
“I can tell you that during the course of the trial some issues of credibility arose relative to one of the witnesses,” Cape and Islands Assistant District Attorney Lisa Edmonds said Wednesday.
Edmonds brought concerns about DeOliveira’s credibility to the attention of the court and a hearing was held Wednesday in Barnstable Superior Court.
State law allows the court to take people into custody who appear to have committed perjury on the stand so they can later be required to appear to face potential charges.
The problems with DeOliveira’s credibility forced the district attorney’s office to drop the charges against Figueroa, Edmonds said.
Judge Gary Nickerson ordered DeOliveira held on $500 cash bail, which she later posted. Figueroa was released from custody, Aspesi said.
DeOliveira’s court-appointed attorney, Ruth McLaughlin, did not return a message seeking comment for this story.
Edmonds and the district attorney’s office deserve a great deal of credit for handling the case as they did, Aspesi said.
“They could have ignored it and not done anything about it,” Aspesi said, adding that he has never seen an alleged victim taken into custody before.
False accusations such as those alleged in this case are a drain on a system intended to assist legitimate victims, Aspesi said.
“I would say it’s unusual,” Edmonds said about Wednesday’s turn of events, adding that the district attorney’s office will evaluate the facts before proceeding with potential charges against DeOliveira.
Staff writer Steve Doane contributed to this story.