On Monday, a day before the start of a four-day trial, Jesus Valentine Pedraza of St. James, 24, declared himself guilty of fourth-degree criminal sex conduct via Alford plea.
The plea allowed Pedraza to protect himself from being convicted by a jury. He agreed the state had enough evidence to prove he was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, although Pedraza doesn't necessarily believe he's guilty.
The original charges included 1. criminal sexual conduct-first degree-penetration or contact under 13-use force/coerce and 2. criminal sex conduct-third degree-force or coercion. The court dismissed count one and amended count two to fourth-degree. The victim and her family agreed with the changes.
On a factual basis given in court, the victim accused Pedraza of forcing her to have sex with him. Pedraza admitted to having sex with the victim but believes he's innocent because of his relationship with the victim. Pedraza saw the Alford plea as "the best way to go." Pedraza would've faced a heavier sentence because of prior convictions of criminal sexual conduct in 2014.
Attorney Kevin O'Conner Green later asked the court to reduce or remove the bail amount altogether.
"[Pedraza's] already been confined for 14 months," said Green. "Bail is completely out of his reach."
In November 2018, the court first set the bail amount at $500,000 with no conditions and $300,000 with conditions.
"[Pedraza] admitted to having sex with someone whose underage, and it's his second offense," said Judge Stephen Ferrazzano. Ferrazzano believes more jail time will allow Pedraza to think about his actions and consequences. "You'll be in jail until sentencing."
The initial incident took place between August 20 and August 31 of 2018. Officer Eric Wagman took a report on November 12, 2018, where he learned Victim 1 was at a party in St. James, as so was Pedraza. At some point, Victim 1 fell asleep on the couch, and Pedraza fell asleep on the other end. Victim 1 awoke, and Pedraza was lying directly behind the victim, both on their right sides. Pedraza tapped Victim 1's shoulder and asked if he could lay behind her. Victim 1 declined, but Pedraza stayed there anyway, saying it was more comfortable. Victim 1 tried to move off the couch, but Pedraza grabbed her midsection and pulled her closer to him. He then wrapped his other arm around her and told her, "don't move" several times. He used his left hand to unzip her jeans and pull them down before touching her. Victim 1 freed her right hand and grabbed the couch to try and pull away from Pedraza. He grabbed both her arms to prevent her from moving. Victim 1 tried to speak, but Pedraza squeezed her throat with his left hand. She couldn't breathe. She continued to try to escape. After several minutes, Pedraza stopped, moved to the other side of the couch, and said, "Don't say anything about this." Pedraza later sent messages to Victim 1, saying he "[expletive] up," wanted to explain himself, "lost control," and wanted to "make love" to Victim 1. Pedraza was arrested on November 16, 2018, and refused to provide a statement.
The court scheduled Pedraza's sentencing for February 4 at 1 p.m.