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Federal judge sentences man who sought sex with 13-year-old to five years in prison

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 12, 2020

The Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse is seen in January 2014. Juan Vasquez Gonzalez received a five-year prison sentence in the courthouse this week after pleading guilty to traveling with the intent to commit an illegal sexual act with who he believed was a 13-year-old girl. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
The Thomas S. Foley U.S. Courthouse is seen in January 2014. Juan Vasquez Gonzalez received a five-year prison sentence in the courthouse this week after pleading guilty to traveling with the intent to commit an illegal sexual act with who he believed was a 13-year-old girl. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

A Spokane man who showed up to have sex with who he believed would be a 13-year-old girl in 2017 received a five-year federal prison sentence Tuesday, against the wishes of prosecutors who wanted him behind bars for twice as long.

Juan Vazquez Gonzalez argued that the meeting at a coffee shop near Gonzaga University three years ago was a lapse in his judgment, caused by the stress of trying to become a U.S. citizen and a strained relationship with his wife, with whom he has a child.

U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza delivered a sentence more than the credit for time served that Vazquez Gonzalez requested, but shorter than the 10 years that the U.S. attorney’s office said his behavior warranted.

“Sexually well-adjusted adults, whether post-divorce or not, find themselves lonely all the time but never even think of seeking out sex with a child,” U.S. Assistant Attorney David Herzog argued in court paperwork supporting the 10-year sentence for Vazquez Gonzalez.

Herzog submitted text messages obtained by an undercover detective, posing both as the person who posted a Craigslist ad offering the young girl for sex and as the 13-year-old herself.

In those messages, Vazquez Gonzalez said he didn’t have much money but would offer the teenager video games after they discussed sex. The undercover detective, who showed up to the meeting at the coffee shop, said Vazquez Gonzalez told him he’d turn up the volume on his television so roommates wouldn’t hear the two having sex.

Andrea George, Vazquez Gonzalez’s defense attorney, said in court records that Vazquez Gonzalez never intended to have sex with the child and had been looking for relationships on Craigslist because he’d just left his wife and children. George argued federal prosecutors were seeking a sentence harsher than other similar cases in Eastern Washington.

“Sometimes prison is not the answer,” George wrote. “This is one of those times.”

Vazquez Gonzalez, who also goes by the name Alonso, had recently obtained permanent legal status in the United States after eight years of residency. George wrote it is likely that the criminal conviction will lead to his deportation back to Mexico.

In court documents, Herzog argued that giving Vazquez Gonzalez a sentence of fewer than 10 years would set a bad precedent in the district, and prosecutors “will be disincentived from offering future plea deals that are so far beneath the mandatory minima.” Under the original charges filed in the case, Vazquez Gonzalez faced potential mandatory minimum sentences of either 10 or 15 years, as enacted by Congress.

But George and several of Vazquez Gonzalez’s family members, including his wife, argued he should be given leniency.

“There is no denying that he made a huge mistake, but please don’t let his worst moment define him,” his wife wrote in a letter to the judge.

Vazquez Gonzalez was booked into the Spokane County Jail after the hearing, and has requested that he be held in federal custody at a prison camp in Sheridan, Oregon.

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