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more details - girl denies sexual contact

Posted by d on Tuesday, May 16 2006 at 11:48:22AM
In reply to 14yo jailed for not testifying against 20yo posted by d on Tuesday, May 16 2006 at 11:44:03AM

Yep, it stinks. This is from the local Akron, Ohio paper.

Summit judge jails 14-year-old
Girl refuses to testify against man who is accused of molesting her
By Phil Trexler
Beacon Journal staff writer

A judge has jailed a 14-year-old girl who ran away rather than testify against a man accused of molesting her.

The Norton Middle School student is being held indefinitely in an isolated area of the Summit County Jail on the orders of Common Pleas Judge James Murphy.

The teen, jailed since Wednesday, insists she is not a sex abuse victim and is demanding a lawyer be assigned to represent her, court records show.

However, jail officials said Monday she cannot speak with anyone without permission from county prosecutors.

Prosecutors say the teen is a material witness and is being held in jail for her own protection.

But lawyers for defendant Galo Sanchez-Pesantes contend the state -- with approval from the girl's mother-- has ``effectively kidnapped'' the teen, holding her in an adult jail while denying her access to an attorney in an effort to force her testimony.

Defense attorneys Alex Folk and Karen Brouse have asked Murphy to dismiss the case against Sanchez-Pesantes.

``When you take a child and put her in jail and deny her access to counsel because she refuses to be labeled a material witness, essentially it's an abuse of power,'' Folk said. ``I don't think the state has the right to put a 14-year-old in jail without due process. And in this case, there has been no due process.''

Sanchez-Pesantes, 20, is free on bond. He is to appear before Murphy this morning for a pretrial.

Prosecutors had to drop their case against Sanchez-Pesantes last week and recharge the Akron man after the girl failed to show for his trial on May 8. The girl's mother found her the next day and called police, who took the teen into custody.

Jail officials declined a request by the Beacon Journal to interview the girl by phone, saying no one can speak to her without permission from prosecutors. Chief Prosecutor Mary Ann Kovach said she would not permit the girl to be interviewed.

After she failed to appear in court last week, Murphy attempted to place the girl in the county's Juvenile Detention Center. But Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio blocked the move, saying she could not legally hold the girl. In court papers, Teodosio cited a federal law barring juveniles who are not accused of a crime from being placed in detention. Murphy then had the girl taken to the county jail on Wednesday.

Teodosio was unavailable for comment.

Brouse said she met briefly with the girl on Friday until a deputy ordered her to leave the jail. Before Brouse left, the girl wrote a note asking Murphy to assign her an attorney. The note was filed with the court by Brouse on Friday, but no action has been taken.

Jail Capt. Steve Finical said the girl is being held in an isolation area away from adult inmates. She lives alone in a five-cell pod with access to television, a phone and visitors, so long as they're approved by prosecutors.

Finical said other witnesses who have refused to testify have been jailed for contempt of court. ``But I don't remember one this age,'' he said.

Murphy did not respond to a message left with his bailiff seeking comment.

Kovach defended the girl's incarceration, saying prosecutors wanted her held ``so that she is not on the streets where we can't find her or she's doing things she shouldn't be doing.''

``It's better for her to be confined,'' Kovach said.

The girl's mother could not be reached for comment.

Sanchez-Pesantes is accused of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor stemming from a Jan. 20 incident in which the boyfriend of the girl's mother allegedly saw the two on a couch. The girl denied having sex and refused to write a statement for police, defense attorneys said.

``She said no, nothing happened with (Sanchez-Pesantes) and she said she told that to everyone, but no one wanted to listen,'' Brouse said Monday.

``I'm puzzled that prosecutors want to go forward with this when they have a witness saying she didn't have sex with this man. It seems to me they're holding her to coerce her testimony. Frankly, I think she's being illegally held.''
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or

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