ANCHORAGE — An Alaska jury convicted a former Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher in a kidnapping and rape case stemming from an attack 19 years ago.
Carmen Perzechino, 59, was found guilty Wednesday by a jury in Kenai, The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica reported.
Perzechino was accused of raping a woman in January 2001. The victim said they met in a bar and Perzechino assaulted her in a van in a secluded area along the Sterling Highway.
The woman said he tackled her when she tried to escape and threatened to kill her.
Alaska State Troopers initially closed the investigation in 2002 without identifying a suspect.
In 2018 the state processed DNA evidence from hundreds of previously untested rape kits and a laboratory matched evidence collected from the victim with a DNA swab Perzechino provided to police in 2012.
U.S. Marshals extradited Perzechino from the Philippines last year to face the charges.
Defense attorney Andy Pevehouse attacked the victim’s testimony. He questioned how much she had to drink and said she must have consented to the sexual encounter.
Perzechino competed in the Iditarod in 2004 but did not finish and did not enter again. His attorney tried to incorporate the race into the defense, asking the jury why someone who was guilty of rape would subject himself to the public spotlight of the event.
Perzechino will be sentenced under laws that were in place in 2001 and faces a possible prison term of eight years for each of two counts of sexual assault and between five and 99 years for the kidnapping conviction, the state Department of Law said in a statement.
The trial, which lasted three weeks, was the first felony jury trial held in Alaska since March.
Superior Court Judge Jennifer Wells adapted the courtroom to allow jurors to sit apart in a gallery area normally occupied by the public to meet social distancing guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Perzechino and the trial attorneys wore clear face masks and plexiglass surrounded the witness stand.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.