Rape charge dropped in Franklin County Superior Court case

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldOctober 15, 2013 

A truck driver who accused a Pasco man of forcing him at knifepoint to perform a sex act changed his story, leading prosecutors to drop the rape charge.

Sergio Nicholas Sanchez-Stewart, 19, pleaded guilty to the amended charges of second-degree robbery and attempting to elude police for the Aug. 28 incident.

He admits he took the man's truck and failed to stop for authorities, but claims he panicked when the owner "made some serious unwanted sexual advances" toward him.

Sanchez-Stewart was sentenced in Franklin County Superior Court to six months in county jail, followed by a year on community supervision.

In asking Judge Vic VanderSchoor to go with the agreed recommendation, he told the court his criminal record doesn't include any violent acts.

"I understand what I did was wrong, and I know I hurt my family and I hurt a lot of other people," Sanchez-Stewart said. "But I'm trying to do better."

After responding to a robbery on North Eighth Avenue, Pasco police met with an adult man who was crying and upset as he explained that a knife-wielding man got into his 2006 Ford F-350 and forced him to have sex before leaving with the pickup, court documents said.

The victim gave police his truck's license plate number, which a Franklin County sheriff's deputy found near Fourth Avenue and Court Street. When the truck took off, police joined in the high-speed chase through residential areas until the truck ran off the roadway and landed in a ditch at Road 40 East and Sacajawea Park Road, documents said.

A search of Sanchez-Stewart after his arrest turned up a sheath for a large knife.

Officers drove the victim to the crash site and he reportedly identified Sanchez-Stewart as the man who had raped and robbed him.

But apparently the man fabricated part of the crime.

"I was in a vehicle with another person. He made some serious unwanted sexual advances toward me. I panicked and drew a knife, ordering him out of his vehicle, taking the vehicle with the threat of force," Sanchez-Stewart claimed in his plea agreement.

Sanchez-Stewart originally was charged with first-degree robbery and the attempting to elude, in addition to a first-degree rape.

Deputy Prosecutor Tim Dickerson said he dismissed the rape and reduced the robbery charge because the victim "has provided two different versions of events, neither of which can be corroborated."

Since Sanchez-Stewart was willing to admit robbing the victim and eluding police after the robbery, "it is prudent to accept the current plea rather than risk trying to prove the other allegations beyond a reasonable doubt when credibility of the victim is in question."

Defense attorney Craig Stilwill said his client was charged with "very serious allegations" until it came out that the victim was lying about certain things.

"My client from the very beginning has been very forthcoming about what happened that evening," Stilwill said. "The plea reflects his involvement and the statement he gave officers after his arrest."

"I thank the prosecutors for recognizing the victim had the inability to tell the truth," he added.

Sanchez-Stewart lost his driver's license as a result of the conviction, and must stay away from the victim.

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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