Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Accused rapist sent to prison

Hailey man gets 6 years for felony injury to a child

Express Staff Writer

Mauro Nunez, a Hailey man sentenced to prison for felony injury to a child, points a finger at prosecuting attorneys at Monday’s sentencing hearing while saying, “They don’t know me.” Photo by David N. Seelig

A man accused of raping a 15-year-old Bellevue girl was sentenced Monday to six years in prison on a conviction of felony injury to a child.

Mauro Z. Nunez, a 21-year-old Hailey man, will be required to serve three years in prison before parole eligibility. He was given credit for 237 days already spent in jail.

Nunez was originally charged with rape for a sexual encounter with the girl at his parents' home in Hailey on Oct. 23. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of felony injury to a child in January.

At Monday's sentencing hearing in Blaine County 5th District Court, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback said a plea agreement was reached with Nunez because "proving the rape was a difficult task." The alleged rape wasn't immediately reported and a "rape kit" was not performed on the victim.

The case was the second time Nunez had been charged with rape within the past three years. He was accused of raping another 15-year-old girl in November 2007. As with the other case, that charge too was pleaded down to felony injury to a child. Nunez was sentenced then to 90 days in jail and given a chance at rehabilitation and probation.

Fredback said at Monday's hearing that Nunez had told a pre-sentence investigator that he "had sex before with four other underage girls—victims that are still out there."

"He continues to put the community at risk," Fredback said. "It's certain to me the defendant is not a candidate for probation."

The victim from the first rape case against Nunez testified at Monday's hearing.

"Mauro took everything away from me," the girl said. " ... He took my soul—he took my pride. My heart still hurts and there is pain at times.

"I don't want to ever hear about him again about hurting another little girl or young lady. I am not asking that you feel sorry for me, but I'm asking that you let him know that what he did is not right."

Public defender Douglas Werth asked that his client be given another chance at rehabilitation through the "rider program," under which convicted felons are sentenced to 180 days incarceration at the North Idaho Correctional Facility in Cottonwood.

Judge Robert J. Elgee rejected that idea and became angry when Nunez addressed the court.

"This is my life," Nunez said. "Technically, I was affected, too. I didn't get to graduate from high school."

Nunez said further that he has suffered from depression because of the charges against him and lost his girlfriend.

"You've certainly had your chances," Elgee said. "Your comments portray yourself as a victim—I am frankly angry and disgusted by what I've heard. I don't know how you can even consider what this has done to your life compared to what you've done to others."

Elgee said he would have imposed a harsher sentence if not for a provision of the plea agreement that would allow Nunez to withdraw his guilty plea if the sentence exceeded the six years recommended by the prosecuting attorney's office.

In accord with the plea agreement, Nunez also pleaded guilty to probation violation in the earlier case against him. Elgee imposed a six-year prison sentence in that case as well; however, it will run concurrently with the sentence in the latter case.

Conviction of felony injury to a child does not require that Nunez become a lifetime registered sex offender.

Terry Smith:

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