Brazilian-Argentine actor Juan Darthés has been acquitted in the first instance for the crime of rape against actress Thelma Fardín by a court in São Paulo, it emerged this week.
The news, confirmed by defence lawyers for the accused, arrives five years after Fardín first accused her former colleague of rape and sexual abuse and on the back of investigations in three nations.
The actress alleges the ex-TV heartthrob abused her in a hotel room in Managua, Nicaragua, back in 2009, when she was a minor, and both were part of a cast working on a live tour production of the popular TV series Patito Feo.
The case caused a huge commotion when it first broke, prompting a wave of other allegations, with some comparing it to the ‘#MeToo’ movement that began in the United States.
State prosecutors from Argentina, Brazil and Nicaragua agreed that there is enough evidence to prosecute Darthés for the alleged crimes and worked together on the case.
Last week’s ruling, detailed by Darthés’ defence team and published by multiple outlets on social media, indicates that Darthés was acquitted for lack of evidence by the São Paulo judge overseeing the case, Fernando Toledo Carneiro.
The acquittal was based on the fact that "the consummation of carnal access could not be verified" and that all other types of abuse were not covered by Brazil’s legislative framework.
According to the magistrate, it was not possible to prove the consummation of “carnal access” in the case and that any other type of abuse would have been barred by the statute of limitations.
"After analysing all the evidence attached to the file, I understand that it was not possible to prove, with the necessary certainty capable of generating a conviction, the occurrence of the carnal access," read the ruling.
"The version presented in the file shows that the victim was always very clear, from the first moment, that Darthés had kissed her, performed oral sex on her and inserted his fingers in her vagina, but, according to the reports presented, it took her a long time until she realised that he had penetrated her with his member," the judge wrote.
Toledo Carneiro also lifted the precautionary measures prohibiting the actor from leaving Brazil, where he now resides.
Fardín, who offered a series of media interviews this week in light of the news, says she plans to appeal the ruling. She also complained about the Brazilian justice system and observed that very few sexual abuse cases in the country ended in convictions.
"In Brazil, one percent of sexual abuse cases are convicted. I knew I was going to the guillotine. When they tell you: 'You have to gamble, you have a 99 percent chance of losing, do you still play? I am so confident in my truth that I said 'yes.'"
Detailing the lengthy legal battle she has undertaken in her quest for justice, which has stretched across three jurisdictions, the actress recalled that the judge who delivered the ruling was not the same magistrate who heard her witness statement.
"There are two tracks. On the one hand, they [Darthés’ legal team] tried to delay the moment of the sentence as much as possible, so much so that they changed the judge," she said in a TV interview. “And on the other hand, the ruling itself confirms the sexual abuse by the practice of oral sex, because he introduced his fingers into my body.”
Providing further details, she said that in May 2009, when the incident allegedly took place, "these two types of crimes were not [considered] rape" in Brazil, but that a law passed just 68 days later qualified them as so.
“If he had raped me 68 days later, Darthés would be facing a possible sentence of 10 years,” she argued.
Fardín also dismissed claims that she was lying.
“The judge himself in an acquittal ruling says that everything I said is proven and that he only has doubts.” she added.
"That same judge, without a gender perspective, says 'I have doubts because the victim because she was 16 years old and because of the process of shock caused by the rape at the time could not relate exactly the facts in the way that the 25-year-old woman who made the complaint could,’” she continued.
Fardín insisted that the ruling backed her account:
"It is ridiculous that we are discussing it. The ruling itself admits that a 45-year-old guy kissed me, practised oral sex and raped me with his hands. What are they talking about?"
She continued: "They told me to go to court and prove it there. Justice is saying that all this is proven.”
Explaining the technicality further, she added: "As he was able to escape to Brazil, he was tried under Brazilian law. The same ruling that today in Brazil acquits him, with the same words and evidence, would have condemned him in Argentina.”
Darthés has not offered public comment, but his defence lawyer, Fernando Burlando, complained in a television interview this week that his client had been “condemned” and “banished” without due trial.
“He was subjected to an investigation not only in a country like Nicaragua where the rule of law does not exist, but also in Argentina and Brazil. Nobody can say today that Darthés was not really thoroughly investigated,” he said.
Darthés, who also holds dual Argentine and Brazilian citizenship, moved to his native Brazil in 2018 after the allegations against him became known. Brazil’s constitution does not allow for the extradition of nationals.
In a 10-minute television interview conducted in 2018, he denied the claims and said he was “hurt and outraged” and claimed that Fardín had “insinuated” herself against him.
"I never raped or harassed anyone. I don't know what happened with Thelma,” he told journalist Mario Viale. ““She came on to me, she wanted to kiss me. I am telling you the truth.”
Following a press conference held at the headquarters of Amnesty International Argentina that week, the Actrices Argentinas collective issued a statement supporting Fardín.
"Acquitted does not mean innocent. We stand with Thelma Fardin," it read.