The attorney for a 22-year-old Lincoln man who lied about his age while befriending two underage girls then sexually assaulted them asked for probation at his sentencing Tuesday.
Defense attorney Carlos Monzón said he believed Emanuel Chavez's case was different than many first-degree sexual assault cases, because of his closeness in age with the victims and unsophisticated nature.
"This is an individual that has expressed remorse, has expressed sincerity as to that remorse and shame as to what he has done to the victims in this case. And I believe that is something that should not be taken lightly," Monzón said.
He said Chavez has been in treatment for nearly a year.
"What he did was inexcusable. But what we need to look at as a society is what … is better for society in this case," Monzón said, asking for probation with the possibility of waivable jail time so Chavez could continue working and getting treatment.
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Moments later, the prosecutor said she respectfully disagreed.
"We have here today an individual that every parent, caretaker and law enforcement officer wants behind bars in order to keep the youth of our community safe," Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Julie Mruz told the judge in front of a courtroom of supporters on both sides.
She said not only did Chavez sexually assault two young girls, but he was attempting to lure a third "into his trap."
"If it weren't for law enforcement, it may have happened a third time," Mruz said.
In an affidavit for a search warrant, a Lincoln Police investigator said Chavez had sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl twice, filming it once, and a 14-year-old girl and he was sending sexually explicit photos to a third girl, who was 13.
He'd met all of them online and told one girl he was 18, when he was 20, and two others he was 16.
Chavez ultimately pleaded no contest to first-degree sexual assault, enticement by electronic device and possession of child pornography for his actions.
In court Tuesday, Mruz said Chavez has a problem and fortunately he's dealing with it through treatment. But that didn't take away from what he has done and who he has hurt.
"Mr. Chavez is a predator. His M.O. is to prey on young females, lie about his age, bring them to his home and have sexual intercourse with them," the prosecutor said.
In the end, Lancaster County District Judge Susan Strong said while Chavez had no criminal history and lots of letters from supporters, his crimes involved young children who he surely knew were too young to consent to sex and occurred over several months.
"So this was not a momentary indiscretion," she said. "These assaults were premeditated and intentional."
And the victims' lives have been permanently damaged and altered by his actions, the judge said.
"These is nothing I can do to repair that damage. I wish there were," Strong said, sentencing Chavez to 28 to 37 years in prison.
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