Nathan Chavez, 32, takes the stand in Clallam County Superior Court on Tuesday. Chavez is charged with five counts of third-degree rape of a child, one count of third-degree child molestation and one count of tampering with a witness. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Nathan Chavez, 32, takes the stand in Clallam County Superior Court on Tuesday. Chavez is charged with five counts of third-degree rape of a child, one count of third-degree child molestation and one count of tampering with a witness. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Rape trial expected to go to jury today

EDITOR’S NOTE: The description of sex-abuse victim expert witness Rob Welch has been corrected.

PORT ANGELES — The trial of a 32-year-old Sequim man accused of raping two 14-year-old girls is expected to go to the jury for deliberation today.

Michele Devlin, Clallam County chief criminal deputy prosecuting attorney, will give her rebuttal of arguments by Port Angeles lawyer San Myers, representing Nathan Chavez, before the jury begins deliberating on Chavez’s fate after five days of trial proceedings.

The bulk of closing arguments occurred Wednesday but were interrupted late afternoon by a half-hour fire drill.

The 14-person jury, including two alternates, is made up of seven men and seven women.

Chavez, a heavy equipment operator and a former Sequim church trustee, is charged with three counts of third-degree rape of a child and one count of third-degree child molestation.

The charges include aggravating special allegations that Chavez was in a position of trust with one of the girls — both went to the same church.

Chavez also is charged with two counts of third-degree child rape for allegedly assaulting another teenager.

They allegedly occurred between Dec. 31, 2014, and Nov. 25, 2016, according to court documents.

Chavez also is charged with tampering with a male witness in the case to induce the witness to withhold testimony in the case.

The tampering allegedly occurred Sept. 26, 2017.

At least one of the girls was in eighth grade when Chavez had sexual intercourse with her and the other girl without their consent, Clallam County deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Roberson said Wednesday in his closing argument.

Roberson said there was no evidence of physical violence or threats, he said.

The age of consent is 16 years old in Washington state, he said, adding that the line “can’t be crossed.”

Roberson said the first teenager had wanted to babysit for Chavez, the married father of four children.

“Once the defendant cast that line, he had a bite,” Roberson said.

“This grown man, married with kids, began flirting with the 14-year-old eighth-grader.

“But that didn’t stop there.”

Chavez allegedly raped the girl in his car, at her home and at his home, according to court documents.

The first assault allegedly occurred after a News Year’s Eve party at the church.

Alcohol was involved in the assaults on both teenagers, according to court testimony.

Chavez allegedly raped the second teenager while driving her home from a party, where she was drunk and had smoked marijuana.

Myers countered that there was no evidence that was presented at the trial that the assaults had occurred other than the testimony of the alleged victims.

“It’s one person’s word against another’s,” Myers said.

“I could accuse our bailiff of hitting me.

“That’s not enough to get [beyond] reasonable doubt.”

Myers said the girls did not but could have, if their allegations were true, tell someone about the rapes after they occurred, including their parents.

The charges were filed after the girls were approached in February 2017 by authorities about the alleged assaults, according to court documents.

An underage girl had told authorities that the girls had told her about their relationships with Chavez, according to the documents.

In testimony at the trial, in its fifth day Wednesday, Chavez denied the allegations.

“I did not have sex” with the teenager who accused him of raping her three times and was never in her house, he said.

Asked if he had intercourse with the other teenager, he responded, “no.”

He said he was never alone with the first teenager and that he did attend parties where underage drinkers were present who were friends with his brother, now 19.

“Nobody wanted to be with me,” Chavez said, as “the older guy.”

Sex-abuse victim expert witness Rob Welch, social and community services director for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, testified that according to FBI research, victims’ late disclosure of sexual abuse is more common than not, Roberson reminded the jury.

Research also indicates that false allegations are a tiny percentage of overall sexual abuse allegations, he said.

The girl who was allegedly raped three times, now 17, testified at the trial and said she was hit by the consequences of her actions while lying in bed at Chavez’s house after she had gone to his house, where they had a sexual encounter.

The teen later sent a telling text to the friend who told authorities about Chavez’s alleged sexual relationships with the girls, according to court documents.

“I can’t believe I let myself be in a sexual relationship with such an older, disgusting man,” the teenager said in the text message.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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