Apr 16, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterA Lander man has pleaded guilty to one count of taking immodest, indecent or immoral liberties related to allegations dating from 1999.
The plea was in line with a deal that saw the total charges for Lauro "Larry" Alcaraz Jr. reduced from three counts of first-degree sexual assault.
Prosecutors also agreed not to file another charge they had expected to lodge against the man. The district court judge in the case said he needed time and information to decide whether to accept the deal.
"I don't know whether I'll go along with this," District Court Judge Marvin L. Tyler said at the hearing March 3.
He only received the written agreement that day but was told the general terms of it a week before.
If Tyler rejects the deal, Alcaraz could withdraw his guilty plea.
The defendant's guilty plea was an "Alford plea," which means he did not admit to committing the crimes he was charged with but did agree evidence against him was strong enough to convince a jury he was guilty.
Under the deal, Alcaraz would see eight to 10 years in prison, which is on the high end of possible penalties for the crime of taking immoral liberties with a minor. That charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years but has no minimum sentence. It also carries a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000.
150-year sentence avoided
By making the agreement, Alcaraz avoided a potential 150 years in prison. The defendant had faced two counts of first-degree sexual assault in one case and one count of the same charge in the second case. Each count carries a penalty of five to 50 years in prison.
The plea agreement dropped charges in the first case to the one count of immoral or indecent acts and dropped the second completely.
Fremont Count Attorney Michael Bennett dropped the charge "without prejudice," which allows him to refile it if the plea agreement falls through or if Tyler rejects it.
The new charge stated Alcaraz took immodest, indecent or immoral liberties with a minor between March 1, 1999, and July 1, 1999.
Prosecutors also agreed not to file a kidnapping charge against Alcaraz as they had planned, Bennett said.
According to affidavits in the cases from the Lander Police Department, several people told investigators Alcaraz performed sexual acts with them without their consent when they were minors. Names and identifying information was removed from the documents to protect the alleged victims' identities.
Defendants who plead guilty have to provide a factual basis for their plea, and many do so by telling a judge what they did. Alcaraz chose to agree that part of one of the affidavits was correct and substantiated Alcaraz's guilty plea to immoral liberties with a minor.
That section refers to a 12-year-old who was living with his or her family and Alcaraz when Alcaraz committed the crime. The document does not say if the defendant was part of the family.
Tyler accepted the affidavit as a factual basis.
Bennett and Alcaraz's lawyer, Stan Cannon, of Rock Springs, said they expect the U.S. Attorney's Office to file charges in federal court.
The plea agreement the defendant made with county prosecutors stipulates he would not be sentenced for the immoral or indecent acts with a minor charge until any federal case is resolved. Alcaraz would serve any prison term for the state case at the same time he would serve time for any federal charges, according to the plea agreement.
Alcaraz still is waiting to see if or when federal charges are filed. Tyler plans to hold a sentencing hearing after any federal case is resolved and said he would announce whether to accept the defendant's plea agreement at that hearing.
Possible case dismissal
In a Feb. 20 letter, Tyler had threatened to dismiss Alcaraz's case involving one charge unless the defendant filed a waiver of speedy trial by the next day. Tyler thought the parties missed a deadline to resolve the case in time as not to violate the defendant's right to a speedy disposition.
On Feb. 21, Bennett filed an objection to dismissal arguing the defendant never asked for a dismissal and showed he accepted postponing the case's resolution by agreeing to put it off until after the trial in his other case.
In another Feb. 20 letter, the judge gave Feb. 21 as deadline to file plea agreements in the two-charge case or Tyler would order the Clerk of District Court's Office to start calling a jury for a trial. If the parties resolved the case after Feb. 21, the judge would consider imposing costs, he said.
The Fremont County Attorney's Office also filed a motion Feb. 21 to cancel a trial and request a change of plea hearing in the second case involving the same defendant and similar charges.
Alcaraz filed a waiver of speedy trial the next week, and at the March 3 hearing, Tyler said he was satisfied the defendant's rights were preserved.
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