LOGAN — A 73-year-old Providence man remains behind bars, waiting for trial, more than a year after he was arrested and charged with raping a woman. Richard R. Cornell was booked into the Cache County Jail March 2, 2020, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic all but shut down businesses, schools and the judicial system.
Cornell participated in a virtual hearing in 1st District Court Thursday afternoon, appearing by web conference from jail. He was previously charged with object rape and two counts of forcible sodomy, all first-degree felonies; attempted forcible sodomy, and two counts of forcible sexual abuse, all second-degree felonies.
Last March, Cache County sheriff’s deputies were called after a woman went to CAPSA for help. She described how she had allegedly been raped by Cornell, who was an acquaintance.
The woman called Cornell from the sheriff’s office, so deputies could record the conversation. The suspect apologized to her and said it never should have happened. He then allegedly stated that he had prayed about it, and she should go home, “take a shower, and forget it ever happened.”
Deputies responded to the home where the alleged assault took place. They were able to collect several pieces of physical evidence.
Investigators noted that Cornell was still wearing the same clothes the victim described him having on when the rape occurred. They also filed for a warrant to collect his DNA.
Deputies also questioned Cornell, who previously worked in law enforcement, military police and federal court security. He refused to cooperate without his lawyer.
A three day trial was originally scheduled for last October. The trial was later cancelled though, due to a current Utah Supreme Court Ruling, prohibiting in-person jury trials.
During Thursday’s hearing, public defender Ryan Holdaway said although there is no state statute defining a speedy trial timeline during the pandemic, the delay has been frustrating for Cornell. He asked the court to consider reevaluating options for the defendant to be released, while protecting the public.
Holdaway said, just because Cornell is charged with a crime, it doesn’t mean the defendant is a threat to the community. He noted, his client had been an “exemplary citizen” until the incident allegedly occurred last year.
Cache County Deputy Attorney Dane Murray disagreed and said it didn’t matter what Cornell’s history was when you consider the allegations. He told the court, the suspect’s family had expressed fear if the defendant was granted pretrial release.
Judge Brian Cannell said he understood Cornell’s position, noting the court system had been restricted for almost a year. He noted that fellow judges throughout the state have expressed the same concerns, while having to postpone in-person hearings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Judge Cannell said he would consider Cornell’s request, while examining state law, and trying to determine if the delay merited a change in his prior ruling to hold the suspect without bail. He ordered both parties to appear again in court March 24.
Cornell didn’t speak during the hearing. He could face up to life in prison if convicted.