Child molester to serve less time in prison
A Socorro man who was initially sentenced to 15 years for molesting a minor in the early 1980s had his sentence reduced in district court Tuesday.
The reduced confinement stems from the decision to count the time Nicholas Morales, 70, spent on house arrest with an ankle bracelet from March 2006 to July 2011.
“He received credit from the very beginning — from the time that he was placed on the ankle bracelet,” said Deputy District Attorney Mercedes Murphy. “He will receive that additional time as pre-sentenced confinement. (That) is a substantial amount of time.”
Morales will serve only about five years in prison for his crime.
Morales, who appeared in court in a yellow, Central New Mexico Correctional Facility jumpsuit with an oxygen tank in tow, admitted in to molesting the victim, Tanya Gallegos-Baca, from 1978 to 1985.
Early on in the case, the date of the crime was a factor because Morales was formally charged with the crime in 2005, when he was 63 years old. The statute of limitation provided only a 10-year window for prosecuting such crimes until 1979, when the amount was increased to 15 years. In 1997, a statute of limitation for crimes such as this were eliminated.
This allowed the state to pursue a conviction in the trial against Morales. He was charged with five counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor, a first-degree felony, in 2005. Two of those charges were dismissed, but Morales pleaded no contest to the remaining three. He was found guilty in November 2011.
In a motion hearing on Tuesday, his guilt wasn’t in question, but rather whether or not his sentence should be reduced. At the beginning of the case, the state and defense agreed to his conditions of release. He was allowed to leave his house for doctor’s appointments, emergencies and accompanied walks around his block.
“We (the state and defense) agree on his conditions, but we don’t agree on the import,” said Katherine Riley, the attorney for Morales. “The state thinks the conditions weren’t strict enough.”
Murphy argued that the time shouldn’t count towards his confinement time since his conditions of release weren’t strict. Riley argued the opposite. The ruling was in favor of the Morales.
The family of the victim, who is now 37, expressed their disappointment in the decision, but they were also glad the process was complete.
“Thank God it’s over,” said Mike Gallegos, the father of the victim. “It is not what happens to us that determines our fate. It is our outlook of faith and our corresponding actions that will determine our outcome, and everyone should and will be rewarded according to their deeds.”
In a letter sent to El Defensor Chieftain by the family, the victim expressed her intention to move on from the case:
“Thank you isn’t enough to express my heart towards my friends and family who’ve shown great love and support through the years, with the last seven years being especially treacherous,” she wrote.
“I am especially grateful to the Seventh Judicial District and specifically, Ms. Stacey Ward who formally held the position of assistant district attorney. Thank you for your grit and integrity. Without your insight and wisdom this case would have never proceeded and justice for myself and countless other families would never have been realized.
“Child sexual abuse has been at the center of public attention in recent years and choosing to go public has opened the door for me to get involved in advocacy work. I am grateful beyond measure to know that I played a roll in establishing a change in the way the law is interpreted in the state of New Mexico to protect victims of violent crimes.
“Currently cold case detectives can now move forward on felony rapes and murders where the perpetrator of these despicable crimes would have otherwise never been held accountable. Presently, my passion is to help other families navigate the perilous waters of fear, uncertainty and dysfunctional family systems.
“Parents, talk to your children, protect your children, be vigilant, know who is spending time with your children. I encourage open dialog about what is a bad touch, and give your children permission to say ‘no.’
“The fear is so paralyzing, and giving a child permission to kick and scream is all they need to raise the alarm. I have been approached by many individuals who bear the same scars or by those who have a family member going through something similar.
“One woman in her 60s, who has been unable to break her silence asked, ‘How did you tell? How did you know you could tell.’ My answer is, I had amazing parents. I always knew they would protect me.
“My advice to other survivors is to break your silence. It isn’t your shame to bear. Not everyone will support you but there will be amazing people along your journey who will support and love you through your dark times.
“The last seven years of my life have vividly exposed the people who care and the ones who don’t. Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, who LOVE YOU, support you and want justice for you.
“To those who remained silent and refused to express support, along with those who ignorantly stood against us during this difficult time, ALL will have to stand before the Ultimate Judge and answer for your actions.
“Yes there were many, often I’m asked, ‘Why? Do they lack common sense? Do they lack moral character?’ It’s obvious who should be protected. I, too, am at a loss for explanation, its unfathomable. In moving forward I carry the attitude, ‘If you are absent during my struggle, don’t expect to be present during my success.’
“With sincere appreciation for your continued encouragement and support, the proud daughter of Mike and Jennie Gallegos,
— Tanya Gallegos-Baca