Somerset man sentenced to jail for assaulting 13-year-old

January 29, 2019

A 19-year-old Somerset man was sentenced Monday to six to 12 months in the Somerset County Jail for indecent assault, a first-degree misdemeanor, involving a teenage girl.

James Gregory Rios turned to the victim and her family, who were sitting in the back of the courtroom with a counselor, and gave what appeared to be a heartfelt, tear-filled apology that convinced President Judge D. Gregory Geary to send him to jail rather than prison.

“When I walked in here today, I was not sure if I was going to sentence you to county jail or to state prison,” Geary told the defendant. “Your turning and apologizing to the family convinced me to do the county.”

The judge told Rios that he needs extensive supervision to address his rehabilitative needs. He said the four years of probation he ordered will place Rios “under the court’s thumb for some time.”

The judge called his actions “terrible.”

According to court documents, Rios sent a Snapchat message to the girl, then 13, on Sept. 21, 2017, asking her to go to a soccer game with him and the girl’s friend.

The girl told police that Rios picked her up at her residence, but the friend was not present. Rios then drove the girl to the Gibbs baseball fields near Stadium Drive in Somerset Township, parked the car and sexually assaulted her before taking her home.

District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser told Geary she had a problem with Rios admitting guilt in the courtroom on Sept. 12 and “not accepting his behavior as inappropriate” to adult probation during a presentencing interview shortly thereafter. He appeared to try to minimize what happened, she said.

Rios’ attorney, Matthew Zatko of Somerset, told the judge that Rios is also reported in that interview to have said he “should not have engaged in anything with her.”

The act was out of character, Zatko said, for Rios is known in the community as being kind and respectful. The crime caused serious emotional problems for the young girl, Geary said, after listening to the comments. “If you don’t address this head-on and don’t accept treatment and counseling, prison is awaiting you,” Geary said. “The question is are you going to address these things. I really hope you do.”

Geary ordered Rios to pay the costs of prosecution and supervision, and a $250 fine, and to submit to DNA testing. He must comply with the registration and reporting requirements of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.

“Good luck, Mr. Rios,” the judge said as sheriff’s deputies led the defendant out of the courtroom.

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