A man who pleaded guilty in a child sexual abuse case nearly a decade old in the 1st District Court received the maximum prison sentence despite lesser recommendations from attorneys.
Alejandro Gutierrez, 47, pleaded guilty in November to one count of first-degree aggravated sexual abuse of a child. During his appearance on Monday, Judge Angela Fonnesbeck sentenced Gutierrez to 15 years to life in the Utah State Prison with no credit for time served.
Fonnesbeck said she was concerned that Gutierrez had fled prosecution for nearly a decade and had blamed the sexual abuse incident on intoxication. For Fonnesbeck, there was no reason to deviate from the maximum sentence.
“You had to be tracked down and forcibly returned,” Fonnesbeck said. “I’m not certain that even today you take responsibility.”
Prior to sentencing, Cache County prosecutor Dane Murray said the case was only resolved due to efforts from federal police in Mexico and the U.S. Department of Justice, which apprehended Gutierrez after he fled the United States following the allegations of child sexual abuse.
Murray said the plea agreement, which dropped five first-degree charges and agreed to six years to life in prison, stemmed from conversations between prosecutors and the alleged victim as well as her family.
“They’ve shown amazing compassion,” Murray said.
Defense attorney Shannon Demler told the court the presentence investigation report in the case was “pathetic” and didn’t provide enough information to the court for such a severe case. Demler told the court his client was low-risk and had no criminal history. He asked the court to follow the recommendation of six years to life in prison and give credit for 405 days served.
Murray also asked the court to follow the recommendation but give no credit for time served since he had evaded prosecution and was living free for nine years.
The victim in the case declined to address the court prior to sentencing. However, Gutierrez, through the assistance of a court interpreter, contested allegations in the case. It was unclear which allegations Gutierrez was trying to address, and an observer in the court interjected, stating the interpretation of Gutierrez’s statement was inaccurate.
Demler told The Herald Journal that Gutierrez had been denying the allegations of abuse in the case, claiming they had been fabricated by another party, despite already entering a guilty plea. For Demler, Gutierrez’ statement sparked the ire of the judge.
Fonnesbeck “just did what she felt was appropriate,” Demler said. “That was 15-to-life.”
However, Demler expressed disappointment with the court’s deviation from a stipulated agreement on sentencing.
“We just think the six years was appropriate and then the board of pardons could make the decision of what they thought was the proper sentence” after Gutierrez received treatment, Demler said. “The victim agreed to the six years. They were all in agreement.”
Despite ordering the maximum sentence, Fonnesbeck championed the victim for showing compassion toward Gutierrez.
“I wish her and her family the very best,” Fonnesbeck said.
In March of 2011, according to prosecutors, Gutierrez inappropriately touched the victim on multiple occasions. When confronted about the abuse, Gutierrez made various denials but also apologized and claimed to be intoxicated. Law enforcement was contacted by the victim’s family, according to an affidavit, and Gutierrez purportedly fled to Mexico. Charges against Gutierrez were then filed.
Demler said Gutierrez left his car at the Salt Lake International Airport and took a flight to Mexico at that time. Demler said it was the 1st District case alone on which Gutierrez was extradited to the United States. For Demler, cases resulting in extradition from another country are aberrant.
“It doesn’t happen very often,” Demler said. “I’ve never had it happen before in 30 years.”
At the time of the preliminary hearing in the case, prosecutors submitted an 18-page transcript of a confrontational phone call between Gutierrez and another party. In the transcription, according to prosecutors, Gutierrez stated he had “made a mistake” and regretted what he had done.
Gutierrez was booked in the Cache County Jail on March 16.