Prosecutor in Abril case dispels rumor of plea deal

Published 6:03 pm Monday, August 4, 2008

The state accepted four of the seven jurors evaluated on Monday afternoon. Coman will continue his evaluation of prospective jurors today, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Polk County Courthouse. Once he has selected 12 jurors, defense attorney Stephen Lindsey will advise which of the selected jurors he accepts. If he rejects some jurors, the selection process will be repeated until all 12 seats on the jury are filled.

Judge Zoro Guice Jr. said at the end of Monday&squo;s court session that the process is slow. But he said the court is making progress and he hopes the jury selection will move forward more quickly on Tuesday.

Coman&squo;s evaluation of the first prospective juror went relatively quickly, but the process slowed with the second juror, who revealed the apparent plea deal rumor. The prospective juror&bsp; had volunteered for the Polk County Democratic Party in 2006 and assisted with the campaign for sheriff Abril. He added that his child has been taught Spanish privately by Abril&squo;s wife, but maintained that he could be impartial in the case.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Coman rejected that premise, repeatedly emphasizing that the state never offered a plea deal to Abril, and raising concerns that the prospective juror felt strongly enough about the rumor to consider writing a letter to the newspaper.

He said the prospective juror had &dquo;bought into some of the very things that were part of&dquo; Abril&squo;s campaign, which maintained that the charges were politically motivated. Coman said that notion made no sense since the Attorney General is a Democrat and the case is against a fellow Democrat.

Judge Guice Jr. accepted Coman&squo;s request to excuse the prospective juror. Defense attorney Lindsey objected.

Both Coman and Lindsey agreed to excuse two other prospective jurors due to close relationships with people involved in the case. One prospective juror was a friend of one of the alleged victims in the case, while another prospective juror was friends with the Abril family.

All of the prospective jurors evaluated Monday knew about the case, and most had discussed it with someone. Coman thoroughly reviewed a lengthy questionaire filled out by the prospective jurors to determine if they could be fair and impartial.

Sheriff Abril sat with his attorney throughout the court session on Monday. His wife sat behind him during much of the jury selection process.

Sheriff Abril is facing five counts of statutory rape and one count of sexual offense on a child stemming from incidents alleged to have occurred between July 1987 and October 1989, involving two girls, ages 10 and 11 at the time. Abril has maintained his innocence since his arrest on August 28, 2006.Note: Look for more coverage in Wednesday&39;s Bulletin.&bsp;