Eagle County man gets three years for sex assault | VailDaily.com

Eagle County man gets three years for sex assault

EAGLE – An Eagle County man was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison after trying to withdraw his guilty plea on charges of sexually assaulting a child.

Gabriel Valesquez, 24, was surrounded by his immediate family as District Judge Tom Moorhead handed down the sentence.

Valesquez and his attorney, public defender Ravn Whitington, told Moorhead that Valesquez was not guilty, and had previously pleaded guilty because he didn’t know what was happening or understand the legal system in which he was now embroiled.

A motion to withdraw Valesquez’ plea is expected to be filed soon by other defense attorneys, Whitington said.

Prosecutors expressed little sympathy.

“The recommendation is now for prison, instead of community corrections and that’s why he wants to change his plea,” said Steve Mallory, assistant district attorney.

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Valesquez had been free on bond, but was taken into custody when he was sentenced, sitting tearfully in the jury box. His family cried and offered encouragement and prayers as he was led to jail in handcuffs.

Whitington said Velasquez called to say he did not feel comfortable with this plea.

“He has denied having any contact with the victim,” Whitington said.

If found guilty at trial, Velasquez could face up to life in prison, Whitington said.

“Given that great, great risk he decided to go forward with the plea,” Whitington said. He’s in a Catch 22, and I don’t think he realized he was in that Catch 22.”

“My whole life I’ve tried to do right by everyone around me. I know there are times I was more rebellious, but that’s all behind me,” Velasquez told Moorhead during Wednesday’s sentencing hearing.

He said he moved to Grand Junction because he could no longer live here, found a job and a nice place to live.

“I’m trying to make the best of life,” he said.

He said he didn’t understand what was happening when he pleaded guilty.

Valesquez was caught up in a family dispute, Whitington said.

The 6-year-old victim is his step-sister’s daughter. The child’s father and Valesquez dislike each other, bickering and arguing constantly.

The girl was with her father before telling her mother about the alleged crime. Gabriel had called the police on the other man a short time before it all happened, according to testimony.

Initially, the mother told a Sheriff’s deputy the girl had been touched. But when the girl was interviewed she denied being touched in a “bad” way.

“She was asked three or four times, and every time she said she was not touched in a bad way,” Whitington told Moorhead.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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