Photo: Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media
BRIDGEPORT — A local teenager accused of sex trafficking a 14-year-old Hartford girl and a Bronx man who allegedly choked and repeatedly stabbed his former girlfriend were rejected for release Wednesday because of the pandemic.
In both cases, Superior Court Judge Joan Alexander refused to reduce $750,000 bonds.
Police said 18-year-old Rasheed Setal was charged with first-degree sexual assault, risk of injury to a child and third-degree assault. He was being held on $750,000 bond and his lawyer, Lindy Urso, said wanted the bond reduced because Setal had at one time been diagnosed with asthma and was at risk for COVID-19.
Judge Alexander said she was denying the bond reduction request based on the allegations and the age of the victim. However, she directed the prosecutor to reach out to the victim to determine if she had any additional information detrimental to the case.
In January, a silver alert was broadcast for the 14-year-old after her mother told Hartford police the girl had gone missing from their home. Police said the FBI got involved in the search and considered it an active human trafficking case.
Sometime later, police said, the girl’s mother received a text from her daughter.
“Mommy he got me. He said hes bringing me home tmr but ive been working all night im in pain mom,” the text read, according to police.
The FBI traced the text to the area of Clinton Avenue in Bridgeport and notified local police. Police said they narrowed the location to an address across the street from Bassick High School, the home of one of Setal’s relatives.
FBI agents, local and state police converged on the address and arrested Setal. They found the girl sitting on an air mattress, covered in a blanket. Police said she was wearing a black wig, red tank top and red leggings. She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Police said Setal contacted the girl through Facebook and lured her to the Clinton Avenue home where he forced her to remain for two days without food. During that time, he repeatedly sexually assaulted her, police said.
Urso argued in court Wednesday that additional evidence shows it is not a sex trafficking case.
“At least for one full day during the time she was staying with the defendant, the alleged victim was left all by herself in the defendant’s apartment with full access to her cell phone,” Urso told Alexander. “If the most serious allegations are true, that the defendant was holding the alleged victim against her will and forcibly raping her, one would assume that she would have absented herself or at least telephoned the police.”
Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney C. Robert Satti Jr. opposed a reduction in the bond.
“The facts of the case are strong and we oppose a bond reduction based on the nature of the allegations and the fact that the defendant has a previous felony arrest,” the prosecutor said.
After Alexander denied the bond reduction request, Urso said, “Unfortunately, the judge has to make her decision based on the charges so while I am disappointed in her decision, I understand it.”
Christopher Jirau, 29, of the Bronx, N.Y., is charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault, home invasion, second-degree strangulation and first-degree unlawful restraint.
He also sought a bond reduction from $750,000, allowing him to be released, citing the pandemic.
However, Satti opposed the motion and the judge denied it, agreeing there is a risk that Jirau would flee the area if released.
Police said on Jan. 22, officers were dispatched to Bridgeport Hospital on report of a woman who had been stabbed.
Police said the woman told officers she had been involved in a relationship with Jirau but had recently broken it off.
She was taking out the garbage when she was confronted outside her apartment by Jirau, police said.
Police continued that Jirau put his hand over the woman’s mouth and then forced her back into the apartment at knifepoint. Once inside the apartment, police said, the two tumbled to the floor and Jirau grabbed the woman’s throat in his hands and began choking her.
Police said Jirau released the woman as she began to pass out, then picked up his knife and repeatedly stabbed her in the torso and stomach.
Bleeding from her wounds, police said, the woman was forced to sit in a chair while Jirau ranted at her. She pleaded with him to let her go to the hospital but he told her he was worried she would call the police.
After several hours, police said, Jirau left the apartment and the victim drove herself to the hospital.
Police said Jirau was later arrested in Westchester County in New York and extradited to Connecticut.