A man who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a child was re-sentenced on Monday after the court vacated his original sentence due to language translation issues.
Alejandro Gutierrez, 48, was originally sentenced in January to 15 years to life in the Utah State Prison, with no credit for time served, for a single count of first-degree aggravated sexual abuse of a child. As part of a plea agreement, five first-degree felonies were dismissed, and attorneys agreed to recommend six years to life — the lesser of three options available at sentencing.
On Monday, Judge Angela Fonnesbeck said the court wanted to ensure a fair sentencing for Gutierrez.
During his initial sentencing in January, Gutierrez contested certain allegations while communicating through the use of a Spanish-language court interpreter. At one point, an observer of the hearing interjected and said the interpretations were inaccurate.
In documents filed with the court, defense attorney Shannon Demler argued “the translator wrongfully translated critical portions of the hearing.” Several letters were also submitted to the court, explaining a mistake had been made.
“The interpreter said that Mr. Gutierrez had abused his wife” instead of the vicim in the case, Demler wrote. “At that point Mr. Gutierrez then tried to defend himself by saying that was not true, that his wife was lying. This came off to the Court as the Defendant not accepting responsibility.”
Court documents show Gutierrez’ sentence was vacated on Oct. 19 after the court found “the sentence imposed was imposed in an illegal manner as it didn’t comply with constitutional due process,” and though the court “doesn’t believe it would have changed the outcome of the sentence, it would have been appropriate to ensure there was a fair and accurate interpretation.”
On Monday, Demler and Cache County prosecutor Griffin Hazard again asked the court for a sentence of six years to life. Demler also said Gutierrez had been incarcerated since December 2019 and asked for credit for time served.
Hazard said the sentencing recommendation wasn’t an attempt to minimize the crime.
“That is what the victim asked the state to do,” Hazard said.
Gutierrez apologized to the court and asked for an opportunity to be released from custody.
“I won’t do it again, ever again,” Gutierrez said through an interpreter. “I regret it a lot.”
The victim in the matter was not present and did not address the court.
Despite the recommendations, Fonnesbeck explained the court was not bound by them and again imposed a sentence of 15 years to life. In a deviation from the original sentence, however, Fonnesbeck did give Gutierrez credit for nearly two years previously served.
Fonnesbeck explained a lesser term of imprisonment for such a crime could have been imposed if it served the “interests of justice.” But, for Fonnesbeck, no such finding could be made.
Fonnesbeck expressed concern regarding Gutierrez’ alcohol consumption and, what’s more, that Gutierrez left the United States for Mexico when allegations arose, avoiding prosecution for nearly a decade until he was extradited.
“That is something,” Fonnesbeck said, “this court cannot tolerate.”
Charges were filed in 2011, after the 13-year-old victim disclosed to family members being inappropriately touched by Gutierrez on multiple occasions. He was booked into the Cache County Jail in March 2020.