FRONT ROYAL — A judge sentenced a man Monday to serve two life terms for raping and sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in May.
Joseph Adam Trejo pleaded guilty in Warren County Circuit Court to committing one count each of rape of a child under the age of 13 and sodomy by force against the same victim. Judge William W. Sharp sentenced Trejo, 29, of Front Royal, to the maximum punishment allowed by law of life in the state penitentiary for each of the two felonies. Trejo must register with the Virginia police as a sex offender.
An agreement reached between Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton and Trejo’s defense counsel Dan F. O’Brien called for the defendant to plead guilty to both counts. The agreement also set forth Trejo’s punishment and took off the table the mandatory life sentence as required under state law.
Sentencing guidelines calculated for the court recommended that Trejo spend between seven years and 15 years and one month of active time in prison. Layton explained why the agreement called for a punishment that deviates from the guidelines.
Authorities initially charged Trejo with rape and forcible sodomy, both involving the same victim under the age of 13, under the state code section that required the defendant to serve a mandatory life sentence for each felony if conviction. The prosecutor’s office indicted Trejo on the same charges on Aug. 19 under a different code section that did not make life in prison a mandatory sentence.
“The Commonwealth’s decision to not indict with that language is to avoid a trial, which would put the young lady through the process of having to testify ...,” Layton said. “Balancing all the circumstances and Mr. Trejo’s acceptance of responsibility for his actions, this was the outcome we felt the most just under the totality of the circumstances.
“Obviously, it provides an extremely heavy penalty and, if at some point in the far future Mr. Trejo is eligible for geriatric parole, then that’s a decision for the parole board and of course the General Assembly will take up in the years ahead,” Layton said.
The prosecutor gave a synopsis of what he planned to present as evidence had the case gone to trial. Officers with the Front Royal Police Department responded to a hotel in town on May 1 for a report of a sexual assault, Layton said. Officers met with the woman who reported the sexual assault against the child, Layton went on to say. Officers made contact with Trejo but did not formally arrest him, the prosecutor said. During a conversation with the officers, Trejo confirmed he had been engaged in a sex act with the girl, Layton said. Officers took Trejo to the Front Royal Police Department where he was read his Miranda rights. Trejo then gave a full confession, Layton said.
The victim made statements to a forensic examiner at Winchester Medical Center consistent with the incidents described to police officers, and she indicated that acts of sexual intercourse took place between her and Trejo in the months before his arrest, Layton said. Trejo later admitted during an interview that he engaged in sexual intercourse with the victim, Layton added.
“And, your honor, as far as the matter goes, I’ve spoken to the family during this,” Layton said. “I’ve spoken to the officers and the Commonwealth feels that this is the appropriate disposition given the totality of the circumstances.”
O’Brien told the judge that the Commonwealth’s evidence is strong because his client cooperated with, and made full admissions to the police. Trejo had suffered assault himself 25 years ago, O’Brien said.
Sharp gave Trejo a chance to make a statement.
“That I’m very, very sorry,” Trejo said.
Sharp accepted the agreement and Trejo’s guilty pleas.
“I do appreciate your expression of remorse today and the fact that you’ve cooperated with this investigation and have been upfront about what occurred,” Sharp said to Trejo. “That is a major step for you or any offender especially for one in a case like this, in my experience. Frankly, a lot of people involved in cases like this will not face what they’ve done and admit it.”