WORTHINGTON — A Nobles County jury found Victorino Ventura Mendez guilty Thursday of two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The jury deliberated for about 70 minutes Thursday afternoon, delivering its verdict around 6 p.m. This was the first jury trial held in Nobles County District Court since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Ventura Mendez was found guilty of sexually assaulting a female who was approximately 11 years old at the time. The assault resulted in the 11-year-old becoming pregnant. DNA testing determined that 99.9993% of the population could be excluded as the biological father, but Ventura Mendez could not.

According to the criminal complaint, Ventura Mendez entered the victim’s bedroom, pushed her onto the bed and forced her to engage in sexual intercourse. Ventura Mendez admitted to law enforcement that he had sexual contact with the victim.

In Minnesota, it is a felony for a defendant to engage in sexual intercourse with another person who is under 13 years of age, when defendant is more than 36 months older. Consent and mistake of age are not defenses.

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It is also a felony for a defendant to engage in sexual penetration with another person when the person is under 16 years of age and defendant had a significant relationship with that person.

At trial, Assistant Nobles County Attorney Braden Hoefert urged the jury to consider the victim’s testimony and the DNA evidence in the case.

“Find the defendant guilty because the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did what [the victim] said he did,” he said.

“I thank Assistant County Attorney Hoefert, the Worthington Police Department and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for their work on this case,” Nobles County Attorney Joseph Sanow said. “Our mission statement is to ‘Seek Justice.’ Even with COVID-19, our mission has not changed. We have and will continue to stand up and seek justice for the vulnerable and abused in Nobles County.”

Fifth Judicial District Judge Stephen Ferrazzano ordered a pre-sentence investigation, and sentencing will be set for a later date. Ventura Mendez faces up to 30 years in prison, a $40,000 fine, or both.

The Southwest Crisis Center is available in our community to support and empower survivors of sexual and domestic violence. For questions about services or how you can help, contact the Southwest Crisis Center at 1-800-376-4311 or mnswcc.org.