Man gets three-year sentence in Aspen-area sex case
July 12, 2011
ASPEN – A district judge on Monday sentenced an Aspen-area man to concurrent three-year sentences in the Department of Corrections for felony convictions of attempted sexual assault on a child and sexual exploitation of a child.
Esau Rodriguez, 23, of Aspen Village received 287 days of credit for the time he has served in Pitkin County Jail since his arrest in September. He originally was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a relative; another victim, not related to Rodriguez, stepped forwarded, resulting in more charges.
Pitkin County District Judge Gail Nicholas also ordered Rodriguez to undergo 10 years of intensive probation following his release from state prison. He’ll also be required to register as a sex offender, and is prohibited from using the Internet or viewing pornography while on probation, among other restrictions. However, the court determined him not to be a violent sexual predator, and parties on both sides agreed that he comes from a dysfunctional family with a history of abuse, including sexual, dating back to Rodriguez’s pre-adolescent days.
Rodriguez told the judge that as “a kid growing up, I had a difficult time. … I wanted to say something … and finally a few years ago I said something. It was a really long time ago, and I don’t like to dwell on my past.”
Nichols called the case “really unique. There’s really no other word for it. There’s very little to say. The harm has been done.”
She later told Rodriguez that “if you want to live a good life, you’ll have to address these issues.”
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Nichols also expressed her sympathy to the two victims, who appeared for the sentencing hearing but did not address the court.
“I personally want to express how sorry I am that this happened,” the judge said.
Rodriguez’s arrest came after Pitkin County Sheriff’s investigator Bruce Benjamin, along with Deputy Jesse Steindler, the Pitkin County Department of Human Services, the River Bridge Child Advocacy Center in Glenwood Springs and a Rifle Police Department detective became aware of the allegations in the summer of 2010.
Steindler, during the course of an unrelated vandalism investigation at Aspen Village in July 2010, initially learned about the sexual abuse accusations, but Rodriguez was not a suspect at the time.
But in August 2010, an anonymous caller left a message at the county’s human services department that Rodriguez was in a a “sexual relationship” with a minor, according to an affidavit Benjamin prepared.
Benjamin then facilitated interviews with the alleged victim and other witnesses. The alleged victim told the Rifle detective that Rodriguez in December 2009 touched her in her private areas. After the incident, the alleged victim, her mother and other family members moved to California, the affidavit says.
On Sept. 10, 2010, Benjamin interviewed Rodriguez at the Eagle County Jail, where he was in custody for an outstanding traffic warrant.
Rodriguez appeared to have confessed to Benjamin, telling him that he had touched the victim in her private area.
“I told Esau that what he did was wrong and asked if he knew what he did was wrong, and he agreed,” Benjamin wrote in the affidavit.
Rodriguez also told Benjamin that he has had family problems in the past.
“I explained to Esau Rodriguez that I had known him and his family for a very long time and was aware of many of the problems in the household over the years,” Benjamin wrote. “I further explained that it was now time to come clean and tell me about some events that had occurred. Esau explained to me that his father, over the years, had accused him of being an instrument of the devil or witchcraft, and Esau also explained that he was the victim of some neglect and abuse as he was growing up.”
Public defender Tina Fang represented Rodriguez. She, along with Chief Deputy District Attorney Arnold Mordkin, agreed that the three-year prison sentence and 10-year probation term were appropriate.
“It’s unbelievable to me to think that this family operated under the radar,” she said. “Back when Esau was 6, 7, 8, and 9, there was child abuse and some degree of incest.”
Said Mordkin: “A lifetime of supervision and incarceration is not necessary, but time will only tell.”
There had been some dispute over whether intrusion occurred. At least one of the victims said she was penetrated by Rodriguez, who denies that ever happened.