Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Suspect pleads guilty to sex crime

Mauro Nuņez admits to felony injury to a child

Express Staff Writer

Mauro Z. Nunez

A Hailey man charged with rape twice within the past three years pleaded guilty Monday to felony injury to a child and probation violation from an earlier case.

As with the earlier case in 2007, when Mauro Z. Nuñez was charged with rape for a sexual encounter with an underage girl, he pleaded guilty in the latest case to the lesser charge of felony injury to a child.

Nuñez got 90 days in jail and three years probation in the first case. This time he's facing a six-year prison sentence if Judge Robert J. Elgee follows the recommendation of the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.

Public defender Douglas Werth said at Monday's change-of-plea hearing that he will request that his client be given an opportunity for rehabilitation through the state of Idaho's retained jurisdiction program, under which convicted felons are typically sent for 180 days to the North Idaho Correctional Facility at Cottonwood.

"The prosecution will argue against retained jurisdiction, is my understanding," Werth said.

In the first case, Nuñez, now 21, was charged with rape for having sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old Bellevue girl in November 2007. In the second case, he was charged with rape for allegedly having sexual intercourse with another 15-year-old Bellevue girl on Oct. 23, 2009.

In neither case was Nuñez accused of physically forcing the girls to have sex. According to court documents, in the first case the girl willingly submitted, but in the second case the girl reported to police that she felt pressured and was afraid of Nuñez.

Nuñez, a U.S. citizen, has been incarcerated in the Blaine County jail on $75,000 bond since his arrest last November on the second charge.

At Monday's court hearing, Nuñez did not admit to having sex with the girl in the second case, but instead told Elgee that he was pleading guilty to felony injury to a child to avoid going to trial on the more serious rape charge.

Felony injury to a child is punishable in Idaho by up to 10 years in prison. Rape is punishable by up to life. Conviction of felony injury to a child does not require lifetime listing as a registered sex offender.

Sentencing was set for March 15.

Terry Smith:

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