Fort Benning soldier pleads not guilty in apartment assault

A Fort Benning soldier pleaded not guilty today to pressing a woman against a wall, kissing her and inappropriately touching the woman after she showed the prospective tenant a place at Willow Creek Apartments in Columbus.

Juan L. Cerda was charged with criminal attempt rape, aggravated sexual battery and false imprisonment of a 33-year-old woman at the complex on Buena Vista Road. Recorder's Court Judge Michael Cielinski ordered Cerda held without bond on the sexual battery charges, set bonds totaling $30,000 on the other two offenses and bound the charges over to Muscogee Superior Court.

Columbus police Detective Mark Richards told the court the woman had just showed the prospective tenant an apartment on Oct. 17 at the Buena Vista Road complex when the soldier pressed her against the wall, kissed her, fondled her and inappropriately touched her. The woman said she was able to free herself and run from the apartment.

The assault wasn't reported to police until Oct. 23. Richards said police used information from Department of Motor Vehicles to help police identify a suspect. The victim was shown a photo lineup and identified Cerda as the man who assaulted her.