CANTON — A Massillon man told a judge he wanted to proceed without delay to a July trial on allegations he raped an 11-year-old girl, who’s now pregnant.

After being cautioned by Stark County Common Pleas Judge Frank Forchione, Juan Leon-Gomez, 26, said he didn’t want to waive his July 16 trial date to allow his attorney more time to prepare for the case.

Leon-Gomez, who is Guatemalan, made the decision through an interpreter Monday during a pretrial and arraignment hearing. The defendant pleaded not guilty to the first-degree felony rape charge, which carries a penalty of 10 years to life in prison.

He is accused of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl at a Massillon residence between December and late April, according to court records filed in the case by the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office.

An arraignment last month was postponed after Forchione expressed concern Leon-Gomez didn’t fully understand the court proceeding because of a language barrier.

A new interpreter, Modesto Boton, was used for Monday’s hearing. Attorney Barry Wakser, of the Stark County Public Defender’s Office, is representing Leon-Gomez.

Leon-Gomez is in the country illegally, Massillon police have said.

During last month’s hearing, Leon-Gomez said through another interpreter he understood about 50% of the Spanish language but his primary language is K’iche’, a Mayan language of Guatemala.

On Monday, Leon-Gomez said through the new interpreter he understood 100% of what Boton was communicating and explaining about the legal proceedings and the charge he’s facing.

The defendant said through his interpreter he didn’t want to delay the July trial. Forchione, however, said he would meet with the defendant and Wakser if Leon-Gomez changes his mind.

“I would strongly encourage you to move this case to a time where I can give your attorney more adequate time to prepare,” Forchione said. “Your case is not the only case he may be working on — at one time he may be juggling 30 to 50 cases.”

A pretrial will be scheduled prior to the trial at the suggestion of Stark County Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Petricini.

Pregnancy

Leon-Gomez was arrested May 1 after the girl’s mother reported her daughter left her home without her permission shortly after 1 a.m.

The mother reported the girl’s pregnancy to police April 29, according to a police report. The mother said her daughter frequently ran away from the house, the report said.

The defendant admitted to investigators he had engaged in sexual conduct with the girl and was aware she was roughly 11 years old, according to court records the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office filed in the case.

Petricini, of the prosecutor’s office, said the girl’s pregnancy has been confirmed. She has said Juan-Gomez is the father of the child she’s carrying, the assistant prosecutor said Monday afternoon. However, the prosecutor’s office won’t know definitively that Leon-Gomez impregnated the girl until the baby is born later this year, Petricini said.

Immigration questions

Forchione spent a large portion of Monday’s hearing informing the defendant of potential immigration issues.

He said he wanted to be clear he’s not an immigration judge, and he doesn’t have sufficient knowledge of the rules of immigration and customs enforcement.

Forchione told the defendant he might face deportation as a result of the case.

He said it was important for the defendant or Wakser to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. “It’s critical your attorney knows both criminal and immigration law,” the judge said.

As he did at last month’s hearing, Forchione said he assumed information about the defendant’s arrest and criminal case have been provided to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He noted it’s possible Leon-Gomez could be deported to his home country and barred from re-entering the United States for many years, possibly forever.

 

Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 or ed.balint@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @ebalintREP