A Central Point man ended a planned three-day trial by pleading no contest to child sex abuse charges at the beginning of the second day.
Juan Antonio Salazar, 28, pleaded no contest before Jackson County Circuit Judge Lorenzo Mejia Tuesday to two counts of first-degree sexual abuse for molesting a 6-year-old girl in 2010, said David Orr, deputy district attorney. A no-contest plea, while not an admission of guilt, carries the same consequences in court as a guilty plea. (Correction: See below.)
Salazar is facing five years in prison for the crimes. And he must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, Orr said.
The victim and her mother had testified Monday, Orr said. Jurors had also seen a video of the child detailing the molestation while being interviewed by counselors and detectives at the Children's Advocacy Center, he said.
"You could see the truth," Orr said. "Her answers were so spontaneous."
Salazar, a former boyfriend of the victim's mother, had molested the child during overnight visits, he said. The victim did not discuss the abuse with her mother, but she eventually disclosed the situation to friends at school. One of the friends, who also had been sexually molested, told her foster mother, who in turn notified authorities. The Department of Human Services then alerted Central Point police detectives, Orr said.
The child initially denied the abuse when questioned by police. But she broke down when her mother was called and ultimately told the entire story to authorities, he said.
"She disclosed the whole thing," Orr said, adding Salazar molested the child while she was in bed trying to sleep.
Prior to Tuesday's plea agreement, Salazar had denied abusing the child. He also said he couldn't remember all the details due to his drug use, Orr said.
Salazar initially was arrested on three counts of first-degree sexual abuse and three counts of first-degree sodomy. He agreed to, then opted out of, a previous plea agreement with the district attorney's office, Orr said.
Salazar was facing six counts of first-degree sodomy charges when his jury trial began Monday afternoon. If found guilty, Salazar would have had to serve a 25-year sentence under Jessica's Law provisions which relates to the severity of the felony sex abuse offenses charged and the victim's age, Orr said.
— Sanne Specht
Correction: Salazar's plea has been corrected throughout this story.