Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sex crime leads to jail sentence

Defendant faces deportation once released from custody


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Gustavo Delacruz Saldana

A 24-year-old Peruvian national has been sentenced to 11 months in the Blaine County jail for having a sexual relationship last year with a 17-year-old Ketchum girl.

Sentence was pronounced Monday in Blaine County 5th District Court for Gustavo Delacruz Saldana for the crime of "sexual battery of a minor child 16 or 17 years of age," a recently enacted Idaho law that requires that a perpetrator be at least five years older than a victim who is age 16-17. The crime is punishable by up to life in prison.

Saldana was originally charged with three counts of the same crime, but two of the counts were dismissed after he pleaded guilty to a single count in December.

According to a Ketchum police report, Saldana was involved in a seven-month sexual relationship with the girl in 2011. Police initiated an investigation in October after the girl told her mother about the relationship and the mother contacted authorities.

Saldana was arrested on Nov. 1 and had remained incarcerated since on $25,000 bond. Following his arrest, an immigration detainer was filed by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency accusing him of being in the United States illegally.

At sentencing, Judge Robert J. Elgee gave Saldana credit for three months already spent behind bars. He faces deportation once released from custody.

The victim, along with a few friends or family members, attended Monday's sentencing hearing but did not testify. Instead, court interpreter Maria Djasran translated out loud a letter to the court written by the girl in Spanish.

According to the letter, the girl considered transferring out of Wood River High School after Saldana's arrest because the defendant has relatives at the same school. The girl further wrote that she became reclusive, avoiding the lunchroom and hallways where she might encounter the relatives.

"I was very scared and ashamed," Djasran translated from the letter.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Matt Fredback told the court that the girl's relationship with the defendant adversely "affected her education and her self-esteem."

Fredback further noted that Saldana "came here legally but overstayed his visa."

"He will be deported at the conclusion of the jail sentence he serves," Fredback said.

Hailey attorney Douglas Werth, assigned as public defender, argued for leniency.

"Gustavo has not been in trouble before," Werth said. "He's 24 years old. He has not been charged before with a crime in the United States. He came here legally on a work visa.

"I think it's significant that from the moment the police asked him what happened he didn't minimize and he told them the truth. He accepted responsibility when he pleaded guilty. He appreciates the impact this had on someone else.

"The underlying acts were consensual, but we recognize that the law makes this a crime."

Saldana briefly addressed the court.

"I don't blame this on anybody except myself," Saldana said through the court interpreter. "I would like to apologize to the United States for breaking this law."

Judge Elgee told the defendant that "you are not the first one to come here and find yourself in violation of a law that might be different in your country. But it is a serious offense and that's why the court will impose a punishment on this—to show people how serious it is."

Elgee also gave Saldana a five-year suspended prison sentence, but advised the defendant that it can be reinstated if he illegally reenters the United States.

Saldana will also be required to register as a sex offender.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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