Victim’s family moved under pressure, father says
Societal pressure forced the family of a victim in an attempted sexual assault case to move, the girl’s father said in court Monday, highlighting tensions that can erupt in the valley’s tightknit Latino community.Speaking at the sentencing of Angel Montanez-Marioni, 20, of Rifle, the father of the 13-year-old girl asked Judge James Boyd to impose the “maximum amount of punishment” possible. “We’ve had a lot of problems in our house,” he said through a translator. “Before this happened, we had a very happy family. After this we’ve had a lot of problems.”The girl’s grades have slipped, and she also wakes at night in a nervous state, the father said.”I’d like the most severe sentence possible. It’s not only her who has suffered, her parents have also suffered,” he said.Montanez-Marioni’s mother also addressed the court, asking Boyd for the lightest sentence possible.Montanez-Marioni was arrested in January. Police alleged that on July 24, 2004, he took the 13-year-old girl to a remote clearing outside Carbondale, where the two had sex.No force or weapon was used, and the defense claimed that the girl had gone willingly with the defendant. Montanez-Marioni was sentenced to 18 months in prison Monday, after which he will likely be deported.Playing a role in the family’s decision to move was the fact that Montanez-Marioni’s uncle lived a few houses away. The girl’s father told Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Bruce Benjamin that the family no longer felt comfortable living in Carbondale. Marie Munday of the sheriff’s office said family members told her that gossip about the girl in the neighborhood led to the move.It is not common for Latinos to pressure one another to the point that a family is uprooted, said Luis Polar Jr., editor and publisher of La Mision. The successful Spanish- and English-language newspaper caters to Latinos from Aspen to Avon.But tensions can and do arise when it comes to law-enforcement issues, he said. The close relations many families within the Latino community maintain can make reporting something to police much more difficult. Polar said members of extended Hispanic families often live with one another or nearby, as in the case of the perpetrator’s uncle.”They help each other, and they work for each other,” he said. “They try to keep themselves [together] as a family. Obviously in a group you’re a little stronger, you have more power to defend yourself financially. You’re able to advance more.”Not helping matters is that “in certain parts of Latin America, unfortunately there’s some sort of a distrust in the police department,” Polar said.This distrust is particularly strong in middle- and lower-income locations, and where corruption is rampant. It results in individuals trying “to take care of business on their own,” he said.While police departments in the United States are considered less corrupt than those in Latin and Central America, Latinos living here don’t know that. And so the distrust remains.”They just see a police car with the lights and badges, and they think [local police] are going to be similar to [those in] the countries they came from,” Polar said.Gaining individuals’ confidence is key for police trying to establish and maintain relationships with the Hispanic community. And that takes time, Polar said.”If something does happen to a Latino family, and a police officer is there and helps them physically or emotionally lends their support, then people remember that,” he said. “And the word spreads around.”At Monday’s court hearing, Munday quietly translated the proceeding for the victim’s parents.Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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