Though he pleaded guilty, Andrew Maestas said the touching of a child in his care was not sexual in nature, and that details in his pre-sentencing report were being used against him, despite never having been brought up in court.
Maestas was charged last year with sexual assault on a child, pattern of sexual abuse and sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, after an 8-year-old girl in his care said he had touched her beneath her clothes on more than one occasion.
Maestas pleaded guilty to an additional charge of attempted sexual assault, a Class 5 felony, and the other charges were dismissed. He made the plea because he feared a longer sentence, public defender Pamela Brown said in district court Thursday.
"He said he touched her, but not for sexual reasons, and this is now being used against him," Brown said. Maestas had last August told Cortez Police Detective Gary Stevens the girl had asked why he never spanked her, because all the children in her class said they had been spanked.
Maestas jokingly asked the victim if she wanted a spanking and when she said yes, gave her one. The child then said that it hurt, so he asked if she wanted him to rub it to make it feel better.
The girl told police of being sexually abused too many times to remember, according to Stevens’ testimony in September 2002.
The abuse, according to an affidavit, included being touched beneath her underwear. The girl also said once, Maestas had tried to grope inside her jeans, found them too tight, and grabbed her over the jeans instead. Brown told the court it was difficult to determine what exactly had happened. The child had first disclosed to Maestas’ girlfriend, rather than to her mother.
The attorney also said a statement Maestas made to Stevens was misinterpreted to her client’s detriment. In an interview, Maestas said: "If she said it happened, it happened," because he hadn’t raised her to be a liar.
However, Brown said, this was not an admission of guilt, merely an acknowledgment of what the girl may have been thinking.
"The point is, he shouldn’t have put his hands where they didn’t belong," the victim’s mother told the court later. "My daughter is still hurting from this.
"He shouldn’t be out ... who knows if he’s going to do it to another."
Brown asked district court judge Sharon Hansen to im-pose a 2-year sentence in the Department of Corrections, rather than the maximum of four, citing Maestas’ support from employers, a favorable psychological profile and his health.
Maestas’ employers wrote letters of support and frequented Brown’s office, she said, even after learning the charges against him. Maestas was also acting as caregiver to his girlfriend.
"This is someone who is very different than what has been portrayed," Brown said.
It was not fair to sentence Maestas based on allegations for which he had never been charged, she added.
Her 69-year-old client only had a minor prior criminal history and is battling cancer.
Deputy District Attorney Devanei Ball asked Hansen to impose 4 years.
While Hansen found no aggravating circumstances, she imposed a sentence of 3 years in prison, plus fines and court costs. Maestas will receive credit for more than 200 days already served.
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