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TMCNet:  Trial opens for man accused of attacking deputy, setting off manhunt in Santa Cruz County

[November 09, 2012]

Trial opens for man accused of attacking deputy, setting off manhunt in Santa Cruz County

SANTA CRUZ, Nov 10, 2012 (Santa Cruz Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A defense attorney for a man facing nearly 60 charges told jurors Friday that his client, Maurice Ainsworth, is guilty of some of the charges against him but not all.


Jerry Vinluan said it's undisputed that a Summit-area family was tortured and robbed in a March 2009 home invasion by two men. One of those men, he said, was co-defendant Jyler Raines but the second man was not Ainsworth.

As the trial opened Friday, prosecutor Steve Drottar called the case "a series of seemingly unending nightmares for everyone involved." Ainsworth, 26, is being tried on 55 charges stemming from both the home invasion and his subsequent escape from jail. The two cases have been merged with two attorneys representing each side.

Friday morning, Drottar detailed how a family of three was tortured and robbed at their Santa Cruz Mountain home in March 2009 by Raines and a second man, who prosecutors contend was Ainsworth. The Sentinel is not identifying the family because they fear for their safety.

"He's bound for an hour, he thinks they are going to kill him and his family," Drottar said of the home's owner. "He hears them threatening to rape his wife if he doesn't give them his bank information." Drottar showed photographs taken at the family's home after the invasion, depicting furniture knocked over, items strewn about, drawers wrenched open. Even pictures hanging on walls were disturbed, and the house stunk of bleach that the robbers used to try to cover up any traces of their DNA, Drottar said.

"Everything was trashed," the woman testified, as she detailed the events her family experienced.

Ainsworth sat calmly in court Friday as he listened to testimony, wearing a shirt and tie and something new, a pair of glasses. Three sheriff's deputies are required to be in the courtroom throughout the trial due to safety concerns.

While Ainsworth was facing trial on charges in connection with the home invasion, he was held at Santa Cruz County Jail. He was being shackled after having an MRI procedure at Dominican Hospital on Nov. 29, 2010 when he broke free, beating a deputy, stunning her with her own stun gun and then stealing her firearm, Drottar said.

Ainsworth also broke the woman's jaw and bit her finger so hard it tore ligaments in her hand, Drottar said.

Ainsworth then took off on a five-hour manhunt that including holding a gun to a preschool teacher's head and holding a terrified Russian couple hostage in their son and daughter-in-law's home.

Prosecutors Drottar and Celia Rowland allege the escape was planned, and said Ainsworth had another MRI not long before the escape. A second appointment for an MRI on his other shoulder was made within Ainsworth's earshot, Drottar said, so he knew when he'd be back and he knew he'd have to be unshackled.

Vinluan refuted that the escape was planned, and said Ainsworth was worried about facing trial in the home invasion case.

"This was a desperate act on his part," Vinluan said. "He was frantic, desperate." Vinluan focused largely on the description of the two assailants that the victims of the home invasion gave to law enforcement.

Both men wore masks but one was described as a 6-foot-3-inch black man of medium build. That matches Raines, Vinlian said. The other suspect was described as being about 5 foot, 10 inches, with a medium build and speaking Spanish at times. Vinluan pointed out that Ainsworth, a black man who stands 6 feet 7 inches and 250 plus pounds, doesn't match the second description.

In her testimony Friday, however, the woman said she only saw the 6-foot-3-inch man because she was blindfolded much of the time and she only heard the second man.

Testimony in the trial, which is expected to last as many as 12 weeks, will resume Tuesday.

Follow Sentinel reporter Jessica M. Pasko on Twitter at Twitter.com/jmpasko96 ___ (c)2012 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) Visit the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) at www.santacruzsentinel.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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