Fresno firefighter accused of rape says he didn't betray his uniform

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Fresno firefighter accused of rape is speaking publicly in his own defense in a statement to Action News. Jeffrey Sanchez told us he's innocent of the charges and looking to clear his name. But legal experts say the case boils down to who people believe is lying about that December night: Sanchez, or the 19-year-old girl he met at a bar.

It was a blue jumpsuit Jeffrey Sanchez wore as he ran out of the Fresno County Jail on the night of his arrest. The 36-year-old is much more accustomed to a different uniform -- one he says he did not betray.

"As a firefighter, I took an oath to help people, not hurt people, and I have not broken that oath," he said.

Fresno sheriff's deputies arrested Sanchez after a 19-year-old woman accused him of rape. But he says she lied to him about her name, her age, and maybe more.

"We also know she claimed she felt like she was drugged, like by a date rape drug," said Sanchez's defense attorney, Jeff Hammerschmidt. "We have the results now: Negative for date rape drug."

The alleged victim admitted to deputies that she drank alcohol and smoked marijuana at Sanchez's home, after meeting him at a Clovis bar. An Action News reporter dug up a search warrant in which detectives say she felt like she "had no physical control of her body" during the sexual encounter. But she said she "was able to verbalize and tell him to stop."

ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says credibility will be a key issue in the case. He says if the woman used a fake ID and a fake name, that may hurt her, but a jury won't necessarily doubt that she said no because of the lack of a date rape drug in her blood.

"It's difficult to say because she wasn't drugged, the rape didn't take place," he said. "That doesn't follow. It's going to come down to he said-she said."

Witness statements could make or break the case. The defense just got to see many of them for the first time Friday, so they should know more when Sanchez is due back in court next month.
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