AIRPORT COURTHOUSE — A Santa Monica man is being held on $1 million bail after pleading not guilty Monday to charges that he tortured a mentally handicapped man and held him against his will for at least six months.

Francisco Gerardo Rodriguez, 25, is facing one count of torture, one count of mayhem and one count of assault with a deadly weapon (a knife), said Jane Robison, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Rodriguez was arrested by Santa Monica police officers on March 24 along with his live-in girlfriend, Maria Leyva Jasmilet, 26, in connection with the alleged abuse. Jasmilet was released that same day and has not been charged. Robison said the case is still under investigation and charges could be filed at a later date.

Officers said the 26-year-old victim, who has the mental capacity of a 12 year old, was emaciated and had numerous cuts, abrasions and bruises over his body, including his genitalia, plus several new tattoos, as if his body was used as a canvas to practice the art.

Meanwhile, Joan Ling, the executive director of Community Corp. of Santa Monica, the city’s leading developer of affordable housing and Rodriguez’ landlord, told the Daily Press that authorities were notified in late February of suspicious activity at the apartment where Rodriguez and Jasmilet lived with the victim and the couple’s two children, ages 5 and 7. Community Corp. opened the 47-unit apartment complex in 2008.

Ling said Community Corp. staff “kept a close eye” on Rodriguez and Jasmilet following the call to the Los Angeles County’s Adult Protective Services program, which investigates reports of elder abuse and dependent adult endangerment.

Things seemed to quiet down, Ling said. But in the days leading up to the arrests, residents there said they heard screaming coming from Rodriguez’ apartment, according to media reports.

Ling did not know why no action was taken following the initial visit from Adult Protective Services.

SMPD Sgt. Jay Trisler said officers were not made aware of the alleged abuse until the victim showed up at a Culver City hospital to be treated for his injuries.

Trisler said officers did respond to a report of a fight on Feb. 21 near the apartment complex, located at 3031 Santa Monica Blvd., and made contact with the victim, but were unaware of the alleged abuse at that time. Trisler said the victim made no mention of being held against his will and did not show signs of torture.

Trisler said staff from Adult Protective Services went to the apartment after receiving an anonymous call and interviewed Rodriguez, who told them that the victim lived in Carson with his parents.

Patricia Senette-Holt, the public information officer for the county’s Community and Senior Services Department, said Adult Protective Services cannot comment on individual cases nor can it divulge the identity of a person or agency that files a report of abuse.

Ling said she can not comment on individual cases because of the tenants’ right to privacy, however, in general, Community Corp. moves to evict tenants who are charged with committing a crime at one of the nonprofit’s properties.

Ling said any property with more than 16 units has a property manager living on-site. All properties are assigned a manager, she said.

In response to criticism that Community Corp. attracts problem tenants, Ling said the agency has a good track record.

“We have 1,500 housing units in Santa Monica and close to 4,000 residents,” Ling said. “In a city with a population with those who are affluent or those with low income, there will be social problems at times. Look at our record. We are rarely in the news.”

kevinh@www.smdp.com

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