SANTA ANA — The attorney for a woman charged with torturing and sexually abusing a 10-year-old boy called for the dismissal of all charges against his client Friday, arguing that the California statute on torture is vague and unconstitutional.
During a hearing in Santa Ana Municipal Court, attorney Richard C. Gilbert also argued that the child abuse complaints against 31-year-old Cynthia Medina do not provide enough facts.
Gilbert agreed to wait for a ruling on his motion until Oct. 14, when Medina is scheduled to be arraigned. He said he is likely to appeal if he loses his bid to prove the torture statute unconstitutional.
But Charles J. Middleton, deputy district attorney, said both the torture statute and the wording of his complaint are explicit enough to survive a constitutional challenge, and that all the charges are fair. The torture statute prohibits inflicting "unusual or extreme suffering . . . resulting in serious bodily injury." It matches the facts of the case exactly, he said.
Authorities say Medina, the boy's aunt, abused him over the past year by burning his tongue with heated knives and whipping him with electrical cords. On Sept. 7, authorities allege, she punished the boy for playing with her marijuana cigarettes by searing his tongue again, beating him with a miniature baseball bat and sodomizing him with it, causing severe internal injuries.
Medina, who appeared disheveled and pale during the hearing Friday, claims the boy's internal injuries resulted from a "freak accident," according to Gilbert.
The boy was living with his maternal aunt because his mother could no longer care for him. The boy's father and maternal grandmother both have said they intend to seek custody of the child, who is now in temporary foster care.
Gilbert complained that under the state's torture statute almost anyone could be charged with the crime. He also accused the district attorney's office of singling out his client.
"A football player who commits a face mask penalty . . . could be charged with torture and face a life sentence when we all thought it should be a 15-yard penalty," he said.
Medina is charged with three counts of felony child abuse and one count of torture. She could receive a life sentence if convicted of torture. She is the first person in the county to be charged with that crime.
Her husband, Edward Medina, 45, has also been charged with three counts of felony child abuse for allegedly failing to stop the abuse.
In another development, Edward Medina, who had been held in jail on a $15,000 bail order, was released Friday on his own recognizance. Middleton agreed to the request to release Medina in exchange for an agreement to keep the two cases together in a single trial.
Middleton said that because the boy will have to testify, he wants to keep the cases together in one trial to minimize further trauma to the child.
Judge B. Tam Nomoto also ordered Medina to have no contact with the boy.
Some family members who filled the first two rows of courtroom seats waved to Edward Medina as he left the courtroom.
Outside the courtroom, the boy's father, who is not being identified to protect the child's anonymity, said he is shocked by the allegations but believes his son's story.
"It is a terrible thing they did to him," he said, tearfully. "I still find it hard to believe. . . . But my son wouldn't lie to anybody."