Ignorance of the law no excuse in 2 sexual assault cases
Ignorance of cultural norms are no excuse for committing a crime, Judge James Boyd told a Basalt man who was sentenced Monday for attempted sexual assault.Jose Pena-Gonzales, 18, was sentenced to two years of probation after he pleaded guilty last month. He was originally charged with felony sexual assault on a child. Pena-Gonzales, who will likely be deported to Mexico, was living with and supporting a 13-year-old girl and her mother, who knew of the relationship, court records say.The defendant, who has spent 97 days in jail, was forthright about not knowing that his relationship with the girl was against the law, Boyd said.Pena-Gonzales’ lawyer, public defender Greg Greer, emphasized that his client was helping the girl and her mother.”A couple of hundred miles to the south and he would simply be married to her,” he said.The girl, who is pregnant with Pena-Gonzales’ child, briefly spoke before he was sentenced, saying the defendant should return to Mexico.Regardless of the culture in Puerto Vallarta, where Pena-Gonzales is from, Boyd said he still “has to follow the laws of the United States.”Montanez-Marioni sentencedIn other court news, Angel Montanez-Marioni will serve 18 months in state prison for attempted sexual assault on a child. Federal officials have also placed an immigration hold on him, meaning he will be deported after he serves his sentence.Deputy District Attorney Andrew Heyl recommended three years in prison, saying Montanez-Marioni had avoided investigators for six months when he knew he was wanted for questioning. He also has been reluctant to accept responsibility for the crime, Heyl said, a contention the defendant’s lawyer, Benjamin Arguello, disputed.Montanez-Marioni was arrested in January. Police alleged that on July 24, 2004, he took a 13-year-old girl to a remote clearing outside Carbondale, where the two had sex.No force or weapon was used, and Arguello told Boyd yesterday that the girl had willingly gone with the defendant.”She called him,” he said.Arguello also said the victim changed her story about whether the encounter was consensual. Finally, he highlighted Montanez-Marioni’s lack of a criminal history and the fact that he has already served 211 days in jail.The defendant told Boyd that “when this happened, I didn’t realize it was a crime. I’ve hurt the victim, and I’d like to apologize to her. I’d like the chance to start my life over again.”It’s immaterial whether he knew it was a crime or if the sex was consensual, Boyd said.”A person as young as your victim cannot give legal consent,” Boyd said.The seriousness of the crime warrants a prison sentence, Boyd said, before giving Montanez-Marioni 18 months.
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