Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Student pleads not guilty to sex crime

March jury trial set in alleged abuse of 14-year-old girl

Express Staff Writer

Christian Ivan Zuniga-Alvarez

A jury trial has been scheduled for March 13 for an 18-year-old Wood River High School senior who is accused of a felony sex crime against a 14-year-old freshman girl.

Christian Ivan Zuniga-Alvarez pleaded not guilty to the crime of sexual abuse of a child under 16 at arraignment Monday in Blaine County 5th District Court. Judge Robert J. Elgee advised Zuniga-Alvarez that the crime is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Zuniga-Alvarez remains incarcerated in the Blaine County jail on $20,000 bond. An immigration detainer has been filed by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency that accuses him of being in the United States illegally.

Zuniga-Alvarez is one of three Wood River High School seniors who have been charged with felony sex crimes against the same girl. The other two are 17 and their names have not been publicly released because of their juvenile status.

Whether the suspects could face disciplinary measures or expulsion from the Blaine County School District remains unknown.

"We by law cannot give out that information," district Communications Director Heather Crocker said Monday.

However, Crocker noted that "the students are currently not in attendance at the high school, nor were they immediately after the incident."

The Hailey Police Department, which investigated the alleged crimes, reported earlier that the two 17-year-olds face more serious charges of lewd conduct with a minor child, a crime punishable by up to life in prison.

Zuniga-Alvarez and the two 17-year-olds are accused of committing sex crimes against the girl in a vehicle parked at O'Donnell Park in Bellevue on the afternoon of Oct. 25. Hailey police reported earlier that the suspects offered to give the girl a ride home from school but took her to the park instead.

Terry Smith:

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