Marquez still not sentenced

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A man who previously pleaded no contest to inappropriately touching an 11-year-old child was not sentenced, but made a first appearance before a new judge Oct. 23 concerning a violation of his conditions of release.

Johnny Marquez, now 71, was ultimately released from custody and the conditions of his release were modified. In addition to work, legal appointments and medical appointments, Marquez will be allowed to attend church and family gatherings, run errands and go to the flea market.

Marquez 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 alleges the offenses happened between May 2011 and August 2011.

A sentencing hearing was held before 7th Judicial District Judge Kevin Sweazea on Oct. 1, but Marquez was not sentenced due to time constraints. He was also not allowed to withdraw his plea. Marquez's attorney Albert Costales said the defense had wanted to withdraw the no contest plea because there was a question as to whether the touching was intentional.

Costales wanted to call several witnesses for the sentencing hearing. Sweazea said the court would go through the rest of its morning docket first, then Costales could have the time left. Anything not heard by then would be continued.

The sentencing had been continued to Oct. 22, but before that Sweazea recused himself from the case, plus Marquez was arrested for going to the flea market.

Marquez had been under house arrest since his initial appearance in Magistrate Court and was only allowed to go to work, medical appointments and legal appointments. Online court records indicate a bench warrant was issued Oct. 15.

During the hearing Oct. 23, 7th Judicial District Judge Edmund Kase III said Sweazea entered an order of recusal because the child was a relative of a District Court employee. Kase explained Sweazea is the chief justice of the 7th Judicial District, and as such has authority over that employee. Kase does not have the same authority over the employee, and said he didn't intend to recuse himself from the case.

Kase said the issue before the court Oct. 23 was Marquez's release. Assistant District Attorney Mercedes Murphy affirmed the state wanted Marquez jailed until the case was disposed of.

Costales said he wanted to renew his request to withdraw the no contest plea. He further expressed concern that police arrested Marquez without a hearing in court, saying the police were "overzealous." Costales didn't think Marquez did anything criminal the whole time he's been out on house arrest.

"The problem is they arrest him because they don't like him," Costales said. "They don't like him, so they take away his freedom."

"But he took away —" one man sitting with the child's family protested. The man was immediately escorted from the courtroom by a Socorro County Sheriff's Department deputy at the judge's direction.

After some discussion a motion hearing was set for December to review the defense's motion to withdraw the no contest plea.

Kase ordered that Marquez's house arrest continue with the same conditions, but granted more exceptions. The same conditions include statewide travel for work, as well as medical and legal appointments. The exceptions are that Marquez will be allowed to obtain the necessities of life, attend church and family gatherings, and go to the flea market.

Kase further ordered that if Marquez has any contact with the child or her family — directly or indirectly — he is to be arrested on the spot. However, any other infractions will have to be brought before the court.

Sweazea previously denied the defense's request to withdraw the no contest plea. When Marquez's family members said he was innocent during the sentencing hearing Oct. 1, Sweazea suggested the court hear the recording of SPD Detective Richard Lopez's interview with Marquez.

On the recording, Marquez at first denied all the accusations of inappropriate touching, but Lopez continued interviewing him for several minutes. Marquez 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.

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