WALLA WALLA -- A man has been given an opportunity to undergo three to four years of outpatient sex-offender treatment rather than serving time in prison for having intercourse with two underage girls he befriended in the late spring or the summer of 2010.
Sentencing for Jesus Torres-Almeida, 22, was held Tuesday afternoon in Walla Walla County Superior Court.
Torres-Almeida faced a standard-range prison term of at least 81/2 to 111/3 years. But Judge John Lohrmann reluctantly went along with an impassioned defense request for a special sex-offender sentencing alternative.
In addition to required treatment, the alternative allows a judge to impose a County Jail term of up to a year, which Lohrmann did. But Torres-Almeida will be released soon because he's already spent 320 days since being arrested July 14 of last year.
Before the sentence was imposed, Torres-Almeida told Lohrmann he is sorry for what he'd done. "I promise if you give me a second chance, this won't happen again," he said.
His attorney, Gerald Smith of Spokane, emphasized how unacceptable and reprehensible Torres-Almeida's conduct was. But he added, "Sometimes good people do evil things and the question is, what do we do."
Smith spoke of Torres-Almeida's lack of social skills, his need for treatment, an opinion by a psychologist that he isn't a threat to the community and his family support. Several family members also expressed remorse and pleaded for Torres-Almeida to have the opportunity to get guidance and support.
However, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Mulhern said -- based on a psychological evaluation and presentence investigation -- Torres-Almeida's amenability to treatment and likelihood to complete the program successfully are "somewhat questionable." She cited his immaturity and lack of self-motivation.
In the end, Lohrmann decided to give the treatment alternative a try in what he called a "borderline kind of case."
"I think, in some ways, I'm sticking my neck out for you, Mr. Torres-Almeida. But I'm not going to stick it out very far."
Lohrmann suspended a prison sentence of about 91/2 years to life, warning Torres-Almeida he will serve the time if he violates any treatment or probationary condition.
Torres-Almeida pleaded guilty Jan. 23 to second-degree rape of a child and third-degree rape of a child for having sex with the victims who were 13 and 15 years old, respectively.
Police initially arrested him for allegedly displaying a dangerous weapon and furnishing liquor to minors. During the course of that investigation, officials reportedly learned that his cellphone contained pictures of nude girls. The phone was confiscated and a search warrant was obtained.
At least six pictures -- depicting three girls believed to be younger than 18 -- were found in the phone, in addition to text messages showing communications between him and young females in which he asked them to send nude pictures of themselves, according to a police report filed in court.
Also, Torres-Almeida admitted to police he had sex with the 13-year-old girl on more than 20 occasions during the summer of 2010. The girl corroborated Torres-Almeida's story and said she broke off the relationship when she found out how old he was, the police report says.
Officials also became aware of the other victim, who was 15 years old.
Initial charges accusing Torres-Almeida of six counts of possessing child pornography and three counts of sexual exploitation of a minor were dropped in exchange for his guilty pleas to the child-rape charges.
Terry McConn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8319.