Former Palm Springs Power Baseball Player Convicted of Assault to Commit Rape

Former Palm Springs Power Baseball Player Convicted of Assault to Commit Rape

Martín Di Felice

A former Palm Springs Power baseball player who was accused of raping a 20-year-old unconscious woman at an Irvine house party nearly five years ago was convicted Thursday of a lesser felony charge of assault with intent to commit rape and misdemeanor sexual battery.

A Riverside County Superior Court jury, which began deliberating Wednesday afternoon, acquitted Trent William Pell of one felony count each of raping an unconscious victim and raping an intoxicated victim.

Pell, 26, is scheduled to be sentenced July 26. The felony charge on which he was convicted could bring him a prison sentence of up to six years.

Pell was ordered to stand trial in October 2015, and remained free on a $200,000 bond amid more than 40 continuances in the case before it reached trial.

Prosecutors alleged that Pell raped the unidentified woman while she was passed out on June 16, 2014, at a get-together at a home in the 81800 block of Sandy Court. The victim “drank heavily” that afternoon and didn’t wake up when several witnesses entered the room and saw Pell having sex with her, Indio police Cpl. Leonardo Perafan wrote in a declaration for an arrest warrant.

Afterward, Pell left his cell phone and wallet — which contained identifying information — at the scene and returned to his native Michigan, according to Perafan, who said Indio police worked with their counterparts in Michigan to track him down.

In testimony last week, Indio police Officer Ricardo Cerna, who was the first officer to arrive at the Sandy Court home, said he found the victim so severely intoxicated that she was unable to provide a statement about the alleged rape.

“She appeared she had no idea what was going on,” Cerna said.

One witness told Cerna that when she found Pell in a closed room at the party with the young woman, “she stood in his way to block him” from leaving. However, Pell was able to get around the witness and flee the scene before law enforcement arrived, the officer said. The witness, according to Cerna, appeared coherent and reasonable, even though she was also under the influence of alcohol.

Perafan, the lead investigator, also took the stand and confirmed that the victim and witnesses were not interviewed in a follow-up investigation until three days after the alleged rape because a homicide took place the same night.

Defense attorney Gary Kaufman told jurors that Pell was not guilty, and that prosecutors could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he had committed rape.

Deputy District Attorney Brijida Rodarte countered that it was clear from witness statements and Pell’s own DNA found on the victim’s breast that he had, in fact, committed the crime.

“The defendant himself told his mother, `there was a sexual assault investigation, I was part of it,” Rodarte said.

Pell — who’s from Eaton Rapids — was a senior infielder and outfielder for Oakland University in Rochester, according to the university’s athletics website. He was in the Coachella Valley playing for the Palm Springs Power, part of the Southern California Collegiate Baseball League, which recruits college athletes to play baseball in June and July.

Shortly after the rape allegations were made, Pell was released by the Power “for disciplinary reasons,” according to the team president.