ST. GEORGE — A Hurricane man accused of forcible sexual abuse of a minor appeared in 5th District Court to be sentenced in a case blurred by conflicting testimonies.

Pedro Jaramillo, 32, of Hurricane, is sentenced to serve time in jail during a sentencing hearing held in 5th District Court in St. George, Utah, Nov. 7, 2023 | Booking photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

On Nov. 7, 32-year-old Pedro Jaramillo, of Hurricane, appeared in 5th District Court in St. George where he was sentenced on one second-degree felony count of forcible sexual abuse during a hearing presided over by District Judge Jay Winward. During a resolution hearing held weeks earlier, Jaramillo entered a “no contest” plea to the charge.

The defendant was represented by defense attorney Ryan Stout, while Prosecutor Jerry Jaeger appeared on behalf of the state.

The case initially came to light in March of last year when the Hurricane Police Department received a report that a teenager, who was 18 at the time, had been in a “long” relationship with Jaramillo that started when the teen was 16-17 years old.

Officers also learned that Jaramillo had instructed the teen to use a messaging app specifically designed to hide and delete messages, which police suspected was to conceal the relationship.

During an interview, Jaramillo reportedly told police he had started the relationship when the teen turned 18 and denied any prior sexual relationship. 

On March 4, 2022, Jaramillo was arrested and booked into jail on two third-degree felony counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- to 17-year-old, and the charges were filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office. 

One year later, a second charging document was filed in the case that amended the charges to rape and forcible sodomy, two first-degree felonies, as well as two second-degree felony counts of forcible sexual abuse. The enhanced charges were filed following allegations that Jaramillo had begun sending sexually explicit texts when the teen was 16, followed by an alleged sexual assault in November of the following year.

Webex screenshot of courtroom during sentencing hearing of Pedro Jaramillo, 32, facing second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse, in 5th District Court in St. George, Utah, Nov. 7, 2023 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

Five days after the amended charges were filed, a preliminary hearing was scheduled to take place on May 22, the testimony of which was one of the issues discussed during the hearing held last week.

Imperfect justice 

During the sentencing hearing held Nov. 7, two victim impact statements were read before the court, including one from the teen, which was read by court support services. The statement outlined the impact the defendant has had on her life, including anxiety and stress that developed into panic attacks and periods of being withdrawn, as well as isolation and the inability to trust.

The impact statement also said the teen “went from being a happy innocent girl to an angry girl with no spirit or motivation to exist.”

A relative of the teen said they trusted Jaramillo and took him into their family, only to be betrayed by his actions that he tried to hide. She said the teen is a shell of what she used to be before the incidents took place. The girl’s behavior began to change when she was in high school.

The girl started missing days of school, her grades dropped and she slowly withdrew from everything and anyone, until she ultimately became powerless, angry and hopeless, the relative said.

The defense’s position 

Stout, Jaramillo’s defense attorney, said his client, who had no previous criminal history before this case, is employed and a hard worker who supports his young child. He said everything incorporated into the presentence report shows that Jaramillo would be successful on probation.

Stout said his client has continued to say that the two began their relationship after the teen turned 18. Jaramillo only learned it was not consensual when he heard her testify at the preliminary hearing, Stout said, adding that his client pleaded no contest to the charge so the teen could move on and heal.

The attorney asked the court to follow the sentencing guidelines included in the report, which gave a range of 0-210 days in jail, and argued for the low end of the matrix, which “is zero,” he said. 

The state weighs in 

Prosecutor Jerry Jaeger said the family, with the exclusion of the teen’s father, had accepted the agreement prior to sentencing with reservations since they wanted the case to go to trial. There were, however, evidentiary concerns that could not be overcome, which prevented them from going to trial. He said he was not alone in making that decision.

That, coupled with the risk of further trauma to the victim, is what compelled the state to settle the case in the interest of justice and to allow the family to have closure.

“I’m not going to go into specific details, but there were evidentiary concerns that we had on taking this case to trial, and we believe it really is in the best interests of the victim,” Jaeger said.

Jaeger closed by saying the state recognizes that ultimately, the sentence can only provide a level of imperfect justice, as there is no way to undo what has already been done. In lieu of that, he said, the goal of the sentence is meant to provide some degree of closure for the teen to be able to move forward and have an amazing life.

Judge Winward said the court was aware of the concerns that emerged with conflicting testimonies given during the preliminary hearing, as well as inconsistent statements provided during the course of the investigation — all of which were issues that he said he agreed could not be overcome.

The judge said there was a Rule 11 agreement in place, meaning he was bound to adhere to the agreement made by the parties.

Webex screenshot of courtroom during sentencing hearing of Pedro Jaramillo, 32, facing second-degree felony forcible sexual abuse, in 5th District Court in St. George, Utah, Nov. 7, 2023 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

One of the terms, he said, was that Jaramillo would plead no contest to the second-degree felony sexual abuse charge, while the other charges would be dismissed since Jaramillo disputed some of the facts in the case but entered into the agreement based upon the stipulation that a prison sentence was off the table.

During his redirect, Stout argued for his client to spend no more than the mid-range sentence of the matrix, which was 105 days in jail, followed by 48 months’ probation.

The ruling 

With the court gallery full of family members on both sides of the aisle, the judge started off by saying that any outbursts, “any whatsoever,” would not be tolerated from either side. 

“Any violence or hate towards anybody else takes away from the person that she is,” he added in reference to the teen. 

Winward commended the efforts of the attorneys in the case, saying the resolution as proposed by both sides was a balance between justice and mercy, for both the teen and defendant. 

To the family of the teen, the judge said it was his hope they would be able to move on and they would hug the “tremendous, wonderful” teen after the hearing.

As for the defense, the judge said it is not easy to stand up on behalf of a client who’s been accused of egregious crimes. But still, Stout stands beside his client “with the Constitution in hand” to protect the defendant, something Stout does “day in and day out,” Winward said. 

With that, the judge sentenced Jaramillo to 364 days in jail and four years’ probation, along with other standard provisions.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

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