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Man pleads down sex assault charges but might face new fed counts

Feb 11, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

A plea agreement and federal charges are in store for a Lander man facing three counts of first-sexual assault related to two cases in state court.

The 9th District Court missed a deadline to hold a speedy trial in one of his cases, however, raising the possibility that one of the charges could be dismissed.

Charges

The Fremont County Attorney's Office filed its first case against Lauro "Larry" Alcaraz Jr. in April, including nine counts of first-degree sexual assault. Lander District Court Judge Robert B. Denhardt found prosecutors could only show probable cause on two of those counts and dismissed the other seven. Officials said the federal government may be interested in pursuing some of the dismissed charges.

Last summer, Fremont County Attorney Michael Bennett filed a second case against Alcaraz

involving another first-degree sexual assault charge in June. Denhardt bound the case over in July.

According to affidavits from Lander Police Department detective Randy Lutterman, Alcaraz assaulted three minor females in 1986, 1999 and 2004.

Identifying details about the alleged victims were redacted. The penalty for each count is five to 50 years in prison.

Plea agreement

During a Feb. 10 hearing, Alcaraz's attorney Stan Cannon of Rock Springs said a "tentative agreement" was in place with the state. Fremont County Deputy Attorney Tom Majdic said he plans to prepare a written plea agreement by the end of the week in Alcaraz's case.

Cannon wants to wait to finalize the agreement in order to resolve the state charges at the same time as the potential federal charges, which could be pursued as soon as March. He said Alcaraz may be able to serve any prison terms concurrently rather than consecutively if the agreement considers all charges together.

"We are ready to go to trial, however in the interest of (Alcaraz's) rights, he needs time to consider state and federal charges," Majdic said.

An online search of federal cases showed the U.S. Attorney's Office has not yet filed charges. Regardless, Majdic said a federal grand jury is to convene in the middle of March. Grand juries review evidence, decide what charges they support and produce indictments reflecting the charges.

Speedy trial

Complicating the timeline was an oversight allowing Alcaraz's second state case to pass the deadline for a speedy trial. Defendants have a right to have a trial within 180 days of their arraignment, or their case could be dismissed.

Alcaraz was arraigned Aug. 7, and the 180-day deadline was passed Feb. 7, District Court Judge Marvin L. Tyler said. Alcaraz did waive his right to a speedy trial in the first case, the judge added.

Cannon meant to have Alcaraz waive the right to speedy trial in the second case as well, the lawyer said. The defendant would do the same for the second case now, Cannon said.

"If he doesn't do so for any reason, I don't have a choice but to dismiss," Tyler warned.

He instructed Cannon to make sure Alcaraz knows the second case could be dismissed if the waiver isn't signed.

In January, Bennett dropped a conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine charge against another defendant, Anthony Pete Hernandez, because time was running out for him have a speedy trial. Lawyers on both sides of the case agreed to postpone a trial but did not have a plea agreement in place in time.

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