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INS Agent to Stand Trial in Rape of Latinas : Immigration: Officer is charged with assaulting illegal aliens and threatening them with deportation.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Immigration and Naturalization Service agent was ordered to stand trial Wednesday on charges that he abducted and sexually assaulted Latina immigrant women after stopping them on San Fernando Valley streets and demanding immigration papers.

James Edward Riley, 33, will face 17 counts--including rape, rape under color of authority, kidnaping and assault--in seven incidents between August, 1989, and last May.

During a two-day preliminary hearing in downtown Los Angeles, seven Latina women testified that Riley cruised the streets preying on young, undocumented aliens and exploited their fear of the INS. Riley confiscated identification cards and telephoned some women repeatedly after the assaults, the women said.

A 24-year-old Salvadoran who worked as a waitress in a Van Nuys bar testified that Riley drew a gun during a one-man “raid” in August, when he chased bar patrons and workers into a parking lot and forced her into his car.

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“He told me he was going to put me on the first plane leaving the country,” the woman said through an interpreter. “I started to cry, I asked him not to do it. I told him I had three children and back home I could not even make enough money for food.”

The woman said Riley drove her to his Reseda apartment and raped her.

Three other women also testified that they were kidnaped and raped by Riley. The others said they managed to escape after the agent threatened them with deportation and made sexual advances.

Defense attorney Otha Standifer said that the testimony indicated that some witnesses were pressured into identifying Riley and that others had sex with the agent willingly.

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Standifer noted that the Salvadoran waitress admitted that she went to the movies with Riley a week after the alleged assault, saying that she was afraid not to go. The woman also said she accompanied the agent because she wanted information in order to report Riley, but then decided not to tell anyone.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Standifer said. “I do suspect that the police put pressure on her to testify.”

Deputy Dist. Atty. Andrew J. McMullen said the waitress’ account illustrated how Riley terrorized victims.

“I think it makes him look worse,” McMullen said.

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Los Angeles police arrested Riley in May, a month after a Sepulveda woman reported being raped at gunpoint. More than 100 alien identification cards found in Riley’s apartment helped lead officers to other victims.

Los Angeles Municipal Judge Elva R. Soper set a Feb. 13 pretrial hearing. Riley, who has been suspended by the INS, is being held without bail.


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