Walla Walla teen accused of rape pleads guilty to lesser charge

Cager J. York received a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to fourth-degree assault.

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WALLA WALLA -- A teenager accused of raping a girl in the spring of 2010 while in a vehicle off Mill Creek Road has pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in Walla Walla County Superior Court.

Cager J. York, 19, of 2363 S. Wilbur Ave., entered the guilty plea Monday to the charge of fourth-degree assault, a gross misdemeanor. He was sentenced this morning by Judge John Lohrmann to a suspended term of a year in the County Jail, with credit for 35 days he'd previously served.

He won't have to serve the remainder of the sentence if he abides by terms of probation.

York initially was charged with second-degree rape and indecent liberties, which are felony sex offenses. But his attorney, Janelle Carman, told Lohrmann this morning that "the underlying facts are certainly hotly contested."

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden added: "There are some evidentiary issues. That's kind of why we agreed to go down to this." Golden recommended the suspended sentence as part of a plea agreement.

In a written statement presented when York pleaded guilty Monday, he admitted engaging in conduct that caused the victim "to have a reasonable apprehension of being the subject of assault in the fourth degree." He expressed regret for any action he took that caused her fear.

He also apologized in court this morning. But Lohrmann countered that, although the sex-offense charges were dropped because the prosecution would have had difficulty proving them, what York acknowledged doing is "disturbing."

"It's time for you to learn respect for other people," Lohrmann told York. "Anytime you touch somebody without their permission, that's improper and illegal." Lohrmann warned York that any such repeated behavior will carry more serious consequences.

A co-defendant, Daijohn A. Gonzalez, now 19, of 316 S. 10th Ave., is scheduled for trial Dec. 8 in the court's Juvenile Department. His case is being handled in juvenile court because he was 17 when he was arrested.

Officials said that late June 4 or early June 5 of 2010, the girl -- who was then 15 and acquainted with York and Gonzalez -- was walking to a friend's house near Pioneer Park when she received text messages and a phone call from York. He and Gonzalez picked the girl up in a van and York eventually drove them to what apparently is Harbert Road off Mill Creek where the two males engaged in sexual intercourse with her, according to a Sheriff's Office report filed in court.

They then traveled back to Walla Walla and the girl got out of the van near Isaacs and Wilbur avenues, officials said.

Gonzalez, who is charged with second-degree rape, also faces an indecent liberties charge for allegedly fondling a different 15-year-old girl a few days later near the corner of Colville and Cherry streets in Walla Walla.

Terry McConn can be reached at terrymcconn@wwub.com or 526-8319.

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