Man to serve year for sexual assault

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldOctober 8, 2013 

A girl said Tuesday that her "world has been turned upside down" since she was molested while she slept and it was videotaped so the perpetrator could later watch it on his computer.

The composed girl stood several feet from Rogelio Lopez as she explained she doesn't like the title "victim" because it makes her sound helpless, but acknowledged that's exactly what she was.

"Ideally I'd want the maximum sentence possible" for Lopez, she said. Yet he also needs help because no one else deserves to be hurt by him, the girl added.

Lopez, 23, apologized to the girl and her family.

"I can't say sorry enough," he said in Franklin County Superior Court.

The Pasco man will serve 12 months in jail for his earlier guilty pleas to third-degree child molestation and possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.

Judge Vic VanderSchoor, who granted the recommended term under the Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative, said Lopez can serve the time on work release if the jail finds he is eligible for the program.

The sentence includes a suspended prison term of eight months, sex offender treatment and three years of community supervision. Lopez can be ordered to do the remaining eight months behind bars if he violates any conditions.

Lopez had a clean record until Pasco police got word of an alleged sexual assault.

According to court documents, a relative was using Lopez's computer in August 2012 when they discovered two videos that appeared to show Lopez inappropriately touching a naked girl while she was sleeping.

The videos included date stamps from September 2011, documents said.

Police got a search warrant and sent Lopez's computer to the Walla Walla Police Department for a forensic search. The analysis, done a year ago, showed the two videos in addition to four other depictions of child pornography.

Lopez then agreed to meet with investigators and admitted to taking the video of himself molesting the girl for his sexual gratification, though he initially denied knowing why he did it. Lopez said he used an old phone to shoot the video, later transferred it to his computer, and watched the video numerous times, court documents said.

He also told police that his computer contained other depictions of children engaged in sexual activity, documents said.

Lopez was booked into the Franklin County jail on Sept. 3 after his guilty plea to the sex crimes.

Deputy Prosecutor Tim Dickerson said he agreed to recommend the special sentence after a substantial amount of negotiating with Lopez's lawyer, Jim Egan, and meeting with the victim's family.

The girl and her family are not named under a Herald policy not to identify people who report being sexually assaulted.

She told police she doesn't remember being touched, but learned about it after later seeing the videos.

"I knew it was wrong and it didn't feel right. I felt ashamed ...," she told the court. "The fact that I was so young and confused made it all the more difficult to bear."

The girl, who was a young teen when molested, said she was mortified and struggled "to understand why someone would do such a thing."

It has affected her emotionally, mentally and academically, she no longer can trust people and still wakes up in the middle of the night with nightmares.

"I don't want anyone else to become a victim. The mere thought of seeing him out in the public freaks me out," the girl said. She added that she just wants to be able to live her life without having this crime continue to hang over her head.

A presentencing report was done by the state Department of Corrections.

The girl's father told a community corrections officer that he thought the sentencing alternative was most appropriate because it will subject Lopez to stricter supervision conditions and require him to attend sex offender therapy. The father also said it's better to house Lopez in county jail because in state prison he can request protective custody, which allows sex offenders to have an "easy time" while incarcerated.

Lopez claims he began watching pornography, including child porn, when he was 13, according to the report.

"I'm very sorry for what I did. I know it's wrong. I have no excuse for what I did," Lopez said Tuesday. "I'd just like to take this opportunity to better myself."

Egan said sitting in jail for a year doesn't necessarily benefit his client, but it will allow him to get some assistance through the court-ordered treatment.

"It helps him try to understand the harm and hurt that he caused to all of his family and the victim's family," Egan told the court. "He never can make this go away but can do things to try and help make the situation better."

While serving his sentence and community supervision, Lopez can't view any pornographic material, use drugs or alcohol, have unsupervised contact with children under age 16 or live in a community protection zone, which is within 880 feet of public and private school grounds.

He also was told not to have "sexual conduct with a child for a fee" and to comply with all treatment activities as required by a therapist.

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