Man apologizes for sexually assaulting autistic teen
A man who sexually assaulted an autistic juvenile in 2015 did something no one expected during his sentencing hearing in York County Court. He apologized.
Xavier Rodriguez-Gonzalez appeared in court Wednesday, Aug. 2, to be sentenced after pleading guilty April 17 to a charge of aggravated indecent assault.
It was a negotiated plea agreement that called for him to be sentenced to three to six years in state prison and to register as a Megan's Law sex offender for the rest of his life. In exchange, charges including rape of a mentally disabled person were dismissed.
At the close of the hearing, Rodriguez-Gonzalez — who needed a Spanish-language translator for the hearing — asked his attorney, chief deputy prosecutor Bruce Blocher, to read a statement Rodriguez-Gonzalez had written.
In it, the defendant says he's taking "full responsibility for my shameful behavior."
"I can't put into words how truly sorry I am," he wrote, adding that not only did he hurt the autistic teen and her family, he also hurt his own family.
"I cannot condone what I did," he wrote, and said all he can do now is work hard to become a productive citizen in an effort to prove he's a changed person.
'Unusual': Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner said he appreciated the defendant's words and wished him luck.
"That is unusual," Blocher said after the hearing. "Usually I don't hear clients say that to me. ... It shows he's taken a step toward not only taking responsibility but also a realization his behavior is unacceptable."
Senior deputy prosecutor Chuck Murphy, who is in charge of child sex assault prosecutions in York County, also expressed some surprise.
"That's one of few times I've seen someone say something at sentencing that wasn't an excuse," Murphy said, but he noted the apology doesn't excuse the defendant's actions.
The background: Rodriguez-Gonzalez had sex with a 17-year-old autistic girl at a home in Newberry Township on Nov. 15, 2015, according to court documents filed by Newberry Township Police.
At the time, he was friends with one of the girl's family members, police said,
Rodriguez-Gonzalez, 28, who previously lived in Harrisburg, remained on the lam for a year until he was captured in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, by members of the U.S. Marshals Service in November 2016, according to the marshals service.
Sentencing: Judge Bortner noted in court that a state psychiatric evaluation of the defendant determined he is not a sexually violent predator.
Also during the hearing, Rodriguez-Gonzalez requested, through his attorney, that he be sent to Laurel Highlands state prison in Somerset County.
Blocher told the judge his client "heard good things" about that prison and hoped to go there.
Bortner said he doesn't decide which state prison inmates eventually are sent to, but noted Laurel Highlands is generally for geriatric inmates and those with special medical issues.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.