AUSTIN, Texas -- A jury has convicted Joel Rene Valdez of raping a woman who he said had consented to sex by asking him to wear a condom.
Valdez, 28, acknowledged that on Sept. 17 he wandered into a neighbor's apartment about 2:30 a.m. and said she screamed when he confronted her outside the bedroom with a knife.
But he said that when she asked him to put on a condom, he thought she was agreeing to have sex.
Elizabeth "Xan" Wilson, 26, an artist who said her name could be made public, testified that she repeatedly begged him not to hurt her. "I knew there wasn't much I could do to prevent what was going to happen," she said. "I thought maybe I could protect myself from dying from AIDS."
Ms. Wilson said she would decline to comment about the case until the punishment phase of the trial is completed today.
The jury of eight women and four men took 2 1/2 hours to return its verdict yesterday, which was hailed by prosecutors and women's groups as a message that victims could protect themselves and would not be judged harshly.
The case sparked national attention in September when a Travis County grand jury declined to indict Valdez because of the condom.
After outrage and public protests by women's groups, a second grand jury reconsidered the case in October and returned an indictment for aggravated sexual assault.
Jennifer Hudson, Texas president of the National Organization for Women, said the verdict sends a clear and positive message. "In that the rapist was found guilty, it's OK for a woman to do what's necessary to protect herself, and know that we're not going to hold that against you . . . ," she said.
Ms. Wilson was in the courtroom, flanked by her mother and sister, when the verdict was read, and several friends and supporters let out a brief cheer.
She cried as she accepted hugs from well-wishers and smiled for the first time since the trial began Monday.
Valdez remained stoic throughout the proceedings. The penalty ranges from five years' probation to a life sentence.