Sentence delayed in Marquez case

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A man who pleaded no contest to inappropriately touching an 11-year-old child was not sentenced Tuesday due to time constraints, nor was he allowed to withdraw his plea.

Johnny Marquez, now 71, previously pleaded no contest to two counts of second-degree felony criminal sexual contact with a child under 13. The criminal complaint filed in the case states the offenses happened between May 2011 and August 2011.

Marquez's attorney Albert Costales said he had wanted to withdraw the no contest plea because there was a question as to whether the touching was intentional.

Costales had visited with 7th Judicial District Judge Kevin Sweazea before the hearing, explaining the defense wanted to call several witnesses, which could take a couple of hours. Sweazea said the court would go through the rest of its morning docket first, then Costales could have the time left before lunch. Anything not heard by then would be continued.

After the other cases had been addressed, Assistant District Attorney Mercedes Murphy said Costales had asked to present his witnesses first, and the state had no problem with that. She said the state was not opposed to sentencing Marquez to three years in prison and then probation time, an offer she had reviewed with the child and her grandmother before extending it to the defense.

Costales said he would like the court to hear medical testimony about his client, who will not do well in prison due to his poor health and advanced age. He said whether or not the molestation occurred, the case impacts many people.

Marquez's 45-year-old daughter testified Marquez has diabetes and hypertension, and had a stroke six years ago. She said her mother had been battling cancer for years, and Marquez helps by reminding her to take her medications. She said it was wrong to send Marquez to prison.

"He'll die there … (and) she'll shortly follow," the daughter said of her father and mother.

The daughter testified she had never seen her father inappropriately touch anyone. While growing up, her father never allowed foul language in the home or inappropriate TV programs.

She said her father's construction business has been affected by the case; no more jobs are coming in because the case has been in the news.

Marquez's 47-year-old son, a carpenter who has worked with his father for 16 years, said their construction business had been very busy before the case was publicized.

"The newspaper's ruined us," the son said.

Following the son's testimony, Sweazea asked if Marquez had described to law enforcement what he did.

"If someone is innocent … I don't understand where the confession figures in if the person is innocent," Sweazea said.

Costales said what sounded like a confession to police did not make clear as to whether Marquez touched the child on purpose.

"That's why I would have liked to withdraw the plea," Costales said.

Sweazea asked to hear the CD recording of the police interview with Marquez, noting Marquez's family says he is innocent of the charges. Sweazea said if Marquez didn't tell the police he did it, perhaps a trial is needed. Regarding the question of withdrawing the no contest plea, Sweazea it is important to hear what Marquez told police.

"Let's listen and see," Sweazea said.

The recording, which was played in court, was of a July 2012 interview between Socorro Police Department Detective Richard Lopez and Marquez. Lopez read Marquez his rights and asked him about the child's allegations of inappropriate touching.

"She's not telling the truth, but she's not lying," Marquez told Lopez toward the beginning.

Marquez at first denied all the accusations, but Lopez continued interviewing him for several minutes. Marquez eventually acknowledged the possibility he may have touched the child while he was drunk and does not remember.

"That little girl is not the little girl they think she is," Marquez told the detective.

Lopez continued to question Marquez, who eventually admitted to fondling the child with his hands in her pants while she sat on his lap for a driving lesson. He said the child's pants were loose fitting, plus he had told her to stop moving around on his lap but she had not complied. He also said he thought the child was sexually active. Lopez asked who made the child that way.

After listening to the recording, Sweazea said: "I will stay with the previous decision not to withdraw the plea agreement."

He added the court will finish the sentencing hearing when it can be rescheduled.