Hollister police briefs: Murder trial delayed; church sex case and hospital molestation cases move forward

Jose A. Covian, 23, suspected of stabbing and killing a man in

The 28-year-old Hollister man accused of lewd acts and other
charges with four minors on church grounds pleaded not guilty at an
arraignment Thursday while his attorney continues talks with the
prosecution over a possible plea deal, Deputy District Attorney
Karen Forcum said.
Suspect in church sex case enters plea

The 28-year-old Hollister man accused of lewd acts and other charges with four minors on church grounds pleaded not guilty at an arraignment Thursday while his attorney continues talks with the prosecution over a possible plea deal, Deputy District Attorney Karen Forcum said.

Ruben J. Matuk, of Hollister, is accused of 14 felony and misdemeanor counts alleging lewd and lascivious acts, molesting, indecent exposure and sexual battery, according to records. Investigators allege the crimes occurred at the Apostolic Full Gospel Church of Christ, 1515 Santa Ana Road, and also at Matuk’s residence adjacent to the church address. Matuk’s father is the church pastor.

Matuk pleaded not guilty at the courthouse this week to the information in the complaint. His next scheduled court appearance is April 15 for a trial setting.

In February, Matuk waived the right for a preliminary hearing at which a judge would have decided if there was enough evidence for a trial. Matuk’s attorney Elvira Zaragoza Robinson said the two sides waived the preliminary hearing to prevent having the suspected victims testify.

Forcum said she had not anticipated a plea deal getting reached by Thursday’s hearing because “his attorney needed more time.”

The allegations first filed Nov. 17 accused Matuk of lewd acts and indecent exposure with two girls, ages 12 and 15 at the time, along with sexual battery to one of them. Prosecutors had alleged the crimes started in September 2003 and occurred into September of this year. The district attorney’s office then filed an amended complaint Dec. 8 that included two more suspected victims.

The amended complaint alleged Matuk in May 2002 and May 2004 committed felony oral copulation of a person under 18 to a Jane Doe 3, while the suspected victim was age 14 at the time, according to court records. It further alleges in August 2009 he committed annoying or molesting a child, a misdemeanor, to a fourth suspected victim who was age 14 at the time, according to court records.

Judge Steven Sanders has issued four protective orders – the most recent Dec. 24 – barring Matuk from making contact with the suspected victims and requiring him to stay at least 100 yards away from them.

Matuk remains free from custody and was released from the San Benito County Jail on Nov. 23 after posting bail, which had been set at $100,000, according to court records.

Murder trial delayed to examine forensics

The trial of a man accused of stabbing 28-year-old Alexander Hurtado to death in December 2007 was set to start a trial this week with jury selection today, but a judge agreed to delay the proceedings until May after the defense requested more examination of forensic evidence.

Jose A. Covian, 23, is suspected of stabbing and killing Hurtado in December 2007 in the 800 block of C Street in Hollister during a confrontation outside a house. Hurtado was pronounced dead at 1 a.m. that following morning, about an hour after he was stabbed once in the chest. Hurtado was stabbed at the end of a C Street segment that runs between Powell Street and Homestead Avenue.

Public Defender Greg LaForge, who is representing Covian, said the defense requested the delay and how Judge Alan Hedegard granted it. The new trial date is set for May 24, he said.

Hospital official accused of molestation switches attorneys before trial

Hospital Board Member Ernest Rivas is switching attorneys before his misdemeanor molestation trial, which is scheduled for April 12 but likely will get delayed due to the change, according to the suspect’s prior and new attorneys.

Rivas, 58, of San Juan Bautista, has retained local lawyer Art Cantu and no longer will be represented by Elvira Zaragoza Robinson. Though the change cannot officially take place until a hearing later this month, Cantu said he expects the trial will get put off until a later date beyond April 12. Both the attorney substitution and a new trial date would have to gain approval from Judge Steven Sanders.

“Mr. Rivas has retained me because I am a jury trial attorney,” Cantu said today, while Robinson also previously confirmed the switch.

Rivas, elected to the San Benito County Health Care District Board in November 2008, is accused of kissing a 16-year-old girl in July while he had taken her on a motorcycle ride in Tres Pinos.

The Hollister Police Department arrested Rivas in August. In February, it released a one-page report on the incident. Police allege it occurred at 1 p.m. July 16 on Quien Sabe Road in Tres Pinos. Under “Circumstances of Incident” in the summary, it notes the following: “Victim alleges that while on a motorcycle ride, the suspect kissed her and put his tongue in her mouth.”

According to the document, it was reported to police at 8:33 p.m. July 19. Officers obtained a warrant and arrested Rivas at 9:15 p.m. July 23 at his home in the first block of Monterey Street in San Juan Bautista, according to the document.

Rivas was booked into the county jail and released after paying bail of $5,000.

Rivas’ trial is scheduled to last three to four days. If convicted, he could spend up to a year in jail and face a fine of up to $5,000.

He had been set to accept a plea bargain on some sort of lesser battery charge, but that fell through last month when the two sides could not come to agreement on details of the proposal.

“We don’t believe he committed any crimes,” Cantu said. “So we’re prepared to go to trial.”

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