Mexican man faces deportation after conviction

Eduardo Fernandez

WOODSTOCK – A Mexican national faces possible deportation after he pleaded guilty Friday to sexually assaulting a girl in Shenandoah County several years ago.

Judge Dennis L. Hupp sentenced Eduardo Fernandez in Shenandoah County Circuit Court to five years in prison with four years and three months suspended after finding the defendant guilty of one count of aggravated sexual battery of a girl under the age of 13. An interpreter translated the proceedings for Fernandez who does not speak English.

Hupp sentenced Fernandez, 37, under a plea agreement reached between Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola and the defendant’s lawyer Charles Ramsey. Fernandez faced a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison. Fernandez entered an Alford plea to the felony by which the defendant maintains his innocence but pleads guilty because he feels it is in his best interest. The judge dismissed Fernandez’ remaining charges of sexual object penetration and sodomy, both involving a victim under the age of 13.

Hupp also ordered Fernandez to serve three years of supervised probation, or, in the event of the defendant’s deportation, five years of unsupervised probation. Fernandez must register with the Virginia State Police as a sex offender and have no contact of any nature with the victim, Hupp said.

The U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement could have a detainer for Fernandez’ deportation, Campola said. Agents have met with Fernandez but have not executed a detainer, Ramsey said. However, Ramsey said he anticipates his client will be deported. Fernandez said through the interpreter that he has lived in the United States for about 17 years.

The judge accepted the plea agreement after Campola said the commonwealth did not want to make the victim testify. Hupp said he also took into consideration concerns raised about the victim’s credibility as a witness. At one point during the hearing, family members of the victim who were in the audience made comments that the judge took as some objection to the plea agreement.

Hupp nearly scrapped the plea agreement when he pointed out that the deal did not prohibit the defendant from contacting the victim. Neither attorney included the condition in the agreement as part of Fernandez’ probation.

“It’s a deal-breaker for me,” Hupp said.

After discussing the matter with his client, Ramsey said he would not object to the judge including the condition with the probation.

Fernandez’ wife, Debra Dawn Fernandez, stands charged with the same three felony offenses and is scheduled to appear in the county court May 9. Eduardo Fernandez was convicted in Tennessee recently on one count of aggravated assault, not a sex crime, Campola told the judge.