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BENNINGTON — A 2018 case in which a 21-year-old Minnesota woman pleaded guilty to luring a minor online and sexually assaulting the victim on more than one occasion has led to questions if or when a defendant fully paid his debt to society and what rehabilitative efforts in the criminal justice system really mean.
Rosa Maria Pastrana, now 27, a mother of two young children, appeared via video link in a Bennington courtroom on Thursday. Through her attorney, she asked Judge Kerry McDonald-Cady to close the door on her indefinite parole after serving three years in prison and an additional three years of supervised parole, including many programs aimed at rehabilitation, without problems or recurrence. .
Defense attorney Susan McManus presented witnesses at the motion hearing, including two parole officers who supervised Pastrana in his home state of Minnesota after he was released from prison. Both parole officers testified that Pastrana was a model citizen and parolee. Both women told the court that Pastrana had completed all the programs she was required to attend. Both praised how Pastrana accepted responsibility for what happened and how she tried to move on with her life in a meaningful way. Both attested to Pastrana’s near-zero risk of re-offending and both encouraged the judge to release Pastrana from his parole.
“We have nothing more to do,” they repeated again and again.
On December 12, 2016, when Pastrana was 21, Manchester Police became aware of a relationship between Pastrana and a 14-year-old man, which began over a four-month period online in the form of chat sessions and quickly progressed to live video, they mutually exchanged illicit photographs, and eventually drove to Pastrana in Vermont from Minnesota to be with the teen in person in a hotel room. At some point near the end of the period, Pastrana told the victim’s mother that she was in love with her son.
Pastrana pleaded guilty in a plea agreement with prosecutors to two counts: sexual assault with a victim under 16 and electronic combat with a child. She received a concurrent 10-20 year sentence, all suspended except for three years, which she served in Vermont. While in prison, Pastrana successfully completed several sex offender programs. By all accounts, she was a model prisoner. Pastrana then began an indefinite parole, served from his home base in Minnesota, which required him to attend several other sex offender treatment programs, all of which were successfully completed.
Both parole officers said Pastrana did exactly what they asked and never had any problems. Pastrana has no other criminal history before or after this four-month incident.
Pastrana had two children, both now infants, after his release. They both live with her. She is a full-time employee and, reportedly, a model citizen. As part of her guilty plea, Pastrana was also required to register as a sex offender. She did it regularly and will have to do it for the rest of her life.
“All the evidence shows that she was a model A-plus probationer,” McManus told the judge. “She did everything we asked of her. She is a devoted member of her community in Minnesota and has moved on with her life. There is nothing more to offer him, in terms of programming.
It was confirmed by parole officers’ testimony that if Pastrana is required to continue her probation, the only thing she will need to do is check in once or twice a year with an email. There would be no more surveillance.
“We try to encourage people to rehabilitate with an appropriate sentence. That’s precisely what Rosa did,” McManus said. “She paid off her debt to society here in Vermont.”
McManus went on to say that the victim’s family, at the time of the original sentencing, thought the sentence was “far too harsh a sentence”. There were no other statements from the parents or the victim during the hearing.
“We’re asking the court to remove her from her probation,” McManus said.
State Attorney Alexander Burke, while acknowledging the positive progress Pastrana has made since his conviction, encouraged the court to uphold his parole. Burke felt that due to the seriousness of the offenses, keeping the 10-20 year sentence hanging over Pastrana’s head would have a huge deterrent effect, even if it is considered a low risk of re-offending.
“The rehabilitation goals here have been achieved,” Burke said, “but the facts of this case are still concerning. Ms. Pastrana began a relationship with a minor, exchanged illicit photos and videos, and then went up in his car and crossed state lines to be with him. There is some value in maintaining his parole. However, we would not object to a light at the end of the tunnel.
What Burke meant was a delay for Pastrana to come off his probation in the future while keeping the threat of his 10-20 year old behind bars for the short term, just to be safe. Burke did not indicate any timeline that would satisfy the state.
Judge McDonald-Cady told both parties she would make her decision “under notice”, issuing a written ruling by next Thursday.
Sexual assault with a minor case in Manchester tests limits on punishment and rehabilitation issues | Local News
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