Friday, May 9, 2008

Illegal alien pleads guilty to sex crime

Man accused of relationship with 14-year-old girl

Express Staff Writer

Juan Arteaga-Ponce

A 22-year-old illegal alien, accused of having a month-long sexual relationship with a 14-year-old Carey girl, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single count of lewd conduct with a minor child under 16.

Juan Arteaga-Ponce, who listed a Hailey address at the time of his arrest last November, was originally charged with four felony sex crimes—two counts of rape and two counts of lewd conduct with a minor child under 16, a crime often referred to in court circles as L&L. Both crimes are punishable in Idaho by up to life in prison.

The defendant's guilty plea averted a jury trial that was scheduled to start on Tuesday, May 13.

In accord with a plea agreement, three of the charges will be dismissed against Arteaga-Ponce and the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office will recommend that the defendant be sentenced to 10 years in prison, with three of them to be served before Arteaga-Ponce is eligible for parole. Public defender Christopher Simms is allowed under the plea agreement to ask for a lesser sentence.

A sentence hearing was scheduled for 9 a.m. on June 19 in Blaine County 5th District Court.

Once released from custody Arteaga-Ponce, who remains incarcerated on $25,000 bond, will likely be deported. Court records describe him as an "illegal alien."

Arteaga-Ponce was arrested on Nov. 4 by the Blaine County Sheriff's Office after a Carey family complained that he had been involved sexually with the girl for about a month.

Court records suggest that Arteaga-Ponce was unaware of the seriousness of his sexual involvement with the girl. The records state that at his arraignment on Nov. 5 he requested through a Spanish-speaking interpreter that he be deported rather than prosecuted.

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