LANCASTER – An HIV-positive man was ordered Thursday to stand trial for allegedly kidnapping and sexually assaulting two 15-year-old girls in Lancaster within less than a month.
Superior Court Judge Lisa M. Chung found sufficient evidence to require Joseph Kenneth Cornett, 41, to proceed to trial on 18 felony counts and eight misdemeanor counts.
Cornett is charged in both of the alleged attacks with attempted unprotected sexual activity by one who knows himself to be infected by HIV.
The most recent crime occurred May 6, when Cornett allegedly posed as a police officer and told one of the 15-year-old girls walking home from school that he was arresting her for jaywalking.
He allegedly took the girl to an abandoned mobile classroom near Lancaster Boulevard and 40th Street and sexually assaulted her.
The teen escaped and sought help across the street at Lancaster Baptist School.
When Cornett tried to drive away, his vehicle got stuck in the desert sand and he was arrested, after fighting with officers and spitting at them, according to Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami.
The charges against him in connection with that alleged attack include lewd act upon a child, sexual penetration by a foreign object and attempted forcible rape.
Cornett is charged with forcible rape, kidnapping and false imprisonment by violence for an alleged April 13 attack on the other teen, who was driven to a deserted area on the far east side of Lancaster and sexually assaulted after accepting a ride from Cornett, the prosecutor alleged.
Cornett — who remains jailed — is due back in a Lancaster courtroom for arraignment July 9. He could face a potential life prison sentence if convicted as charged.
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