Saturday, December 10

Three defendants admit sexual assaults on minors in care in Álava and accept sentences of up to 13 years in prison

Three of the ten defendants in the case of corruption of minors and continued sexual abuse of adolescents under the guardianship of the Álava Provincial Council, which began this Monday at the Provincial Court, have reached an agreement with the Prosecutor’s Office and the rest of the accusations as soon as the plenary started . In order to see his sentence reduced, those who respond to the initials A., D. and B., have admitted the facts -in one case he sexually assaulted a minor of only 13 years-, apologized to the victims, their families and the company, promised that they will not repeat and paid symbolic compensation of 1,000 euros. The rest will seek to prove their innocence with arguments such as that drug use clouded their behavior, that they were unaware that their ‘partners’ were minors or even with a bizarre strategy of a lawyer in which he hides behind the “superior interest of the minor” and in his rights to try to annul a case in which his client is accused, precisely, of violating them in a very serious way. However, shortly after this allegation it has been known that the defense of this accused, a psychologist who came to enter provisional prison, also has a preliminary agreement that will presumably close this Wednesday.

Basque courts accumulate 103,180 pending cases, although they are faster than the Spanish average

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The session has been started late. The court, made up of magistrates Jesús Poncela, Elena Cabero and Francisco García Romo, has issued some special rules due to the sensitivity of the matter. It is forbidden to capture images or provide any data of the minor victims, all of them now of legal age because the events date back to 2015 and 2016. As for the accused, it has only been authorized to record them from behind and for five minutes. They have come with masks, caps or hooded clothing to try to protect their image. Two of them -both included in the three who have confessed to looting- have been guarded by four Ertzaintza agents since they are imprisoned for another reason that has not been publicly specified. A media outlet was convicted during the investigation of this case for spreading the image of one of the accused.

It was Poncela himself who announced the existence of the agreements and explained the facts before giving the floor to the three aforementioned, whom he has asked to dispense with the mask. A. was over 30 years old when in 2016 he contacted a 14-year-old minor in care to “have a sexual encounter” with him and another minor, after paying 400 euros per hour. He has received a sentence of one year and one day in prison, although he is already in prison. D. was also in her thirties and contacted a 13-year-old boy on Facebook with whom she had “relations in exchange for money and marijuana.” On at least two occasions he received the young man at his home, whom he sexually assaulted being “aware of his minority.” He later repeated this practice throughout the web with another adolescent under guardianship with whom he also had sexual encounters. There are four admitted crimes and the sentences add up to 13 years and four days in prison, although he is already incarcerated. He has extended his apologies to the professionals of the juvenile center where the victims resided, Sansoheta, now closed.

In the case of B., in his twenties, he met a 14-year-old adolescent under guardianship in a nightclub in the city of Vitoria and they began a “sentimental relationship”. Knowing that this minor had sexual encounters with other adults, he also paid him money for the same purpose. “My life has not been easy. I’ve been through shelters. I don’t know when I could have failed. It’s not an excuse. What a bad time I’m having… I don’t want to imagine on his part and for his family. This situation is agonizing, a real ordeal for everyone. I heartily regret it. We do things wrong for lack of affection. God accompanies me ”, he has stated after learning of his sentence of seven years and two days. He has paid compensation of 600 euros, according to what has transpired. All three have been able to leave the trial instantly. As auxiliary sentences, they will have restraining orders from their victims (200 meters) for a period similar to that of their prison sentence and disqualification for any job or occupation that involves contact with minors.

Once the agreements have been ratified, the lawyers of the rest of the defendants have presented preliminary issues before the court. R.’s lawyer has been the most belligerent in wanting the annulment of the process because the rights of minors have been violated not in the sexual assaults but in the judicial investigation. He has revealed that there is a photograph in the summary of a minor’s file in which the hand of an Ertzaintza agent is seen “grabbing him by the neck”. “In addition, it is agreed to force minors to provide their mobile phones without protection of their privacy” to know their contacts and messages, he has emphasized. This lawyer has assured that he will defend the “best interest of the minor”. The Prosecutor’s Office, represented by Carmen Cotelo, has responded that in this process the circumstance has arisen that the adolescents did not want to collaborate – which, in their opinion, explains the image of the police “raising their heads” to the minor so that they picked up his features, not attacking him – and José Miguel Fernández, lawyer for the Clara Campoamor association, finds it inconceivable that it should even be raised as a theoretical discussion whether a minor can consent to a sexual act, particularly when the Penal Code reinforces the protection of minors 16 years old, as has happened in several of the assumptions of this ‘Sansoheta case’.

However, after a break of ten minutes, which later was more, in which the court has rejected the possibility of annulling the records of the mobile terminals or the photographs, at least for now – it will do so in a sentence “as permitted by jurisprudence” -, the script has taken a turn and that same defendant who sought the annulment of the evidence has announced that he has an “in principle of agreement”, although he needs 24 hours to “mature” it. For this reason, he will face the trial normally, although the Prosecutor’s Office will modify his request for lower sentences if R. confesses when he testifies this Wednesday morning.

The other six defendants will testify this Monday. The first to do so has not been shy about admitting that he had sexual encounters in exchange for money with a “boy”. That person’s email was from an educational center. The defendant has alleged that he used a platform to send the messages, so he did not know that address. To justify that he did not know he was a minor, he has stated that he did not look at his face when he took him in the car or when the sexual relationship took place. “With the nerves you just want to finish, pay, leave and that’s it. If I am entering a page for adults, I do not think at any time that they are going to be minors. It never crossed my mind that a minor could be on an adult page, ”he declared. He is accused of four other encounters but has stated that the minor “lies” when he refers to these events. The Diputación de Álava, represented in court by a private law firm, has aired the first interrogation with a single question -if the defendant’s car had a rear-view mirror- while the prosecutor Cotelo and Clara Campoamor’s lawyer have fought to find the contradictions.