In Stamford, assault victim’s statement changes outcome of case
STAMFORD — A complaint from a sexual assault victim led a Stamford judge to nearly torpedo a plea agreement, forcing a piano teacher facing nearly three years in jail for having sex with an underage student to take more responsibility for the crimes he committed.
Judge John Blawie’s sentencing of piano teacher Juan Torres, 42, began Friday with the unidentified victim telling the judge how Torres took sexual advantage of her for three years beginning when she was 13 years old.
The young woman told Blawie to make no mistake, “Torres was a manipulator and sexual predator.”
“He got me to trust him and to love him. He manipulated his position of trust in my family to get closer to me. There are no words to describe what he did to me,” said the young Westport woman, now a junior in college. “He stole so many firsts. My first kiss, my first sexual bond.”
When Torres, of Waterbury, was arrested in September 2017 he was charged with 21 felony counts of sexual assault, risk of injury and possession of child pornography. On the day his trial was set to begin in mid-July, Torres plead guilty to a single count of second-degree sexual assault, risk of injury to a minor and possession of child pornography for the pictures of the girl he was in possession of that were taken when she was a minor.
The agreement called for Torres to be sentenced to two years and eight months in jail followed by 20 years probation and 10 years on the state’s sex offender website, which requires that he regularly register his home address with the state for that length of time. If Torres violates his probation he could be made to serve all or some of a seven year, four month suspended sentence that was also handed down.
But Torres was allowed to make the plea under the Alford Doctrine, which allowed him to declare disagreement with the state’s facts of the case, namely that he had sex with the underage girl, while also stipulating that that he would likely have been convicted of the charges if he went to trial.
Halfway through her statement on Friday, the girl castigated the decision that allowed Torres to plead guilty in that way.
“It is appalling that you can make this ‘sorry, not sorry’ plea under Alford. You know what you did and there is no denying it. It only further reveals the manipulator that you have always been. Your refusal to accept responsibility for forever changing my life with a guilty plea but still take jail time and 20 years probation reveals what a coward you are,” she said in remarks directed at Torres. “I doubt you will ever take responsibility for what you have done.”
Blawie told the young woman that she made a good point and said he understood that she and her family were upset that Torres was allowed to make an Alford plea to the charges. He then asked the woman if she was prepared to testify, to spend a day or more at trial testifying against Torres and relive the painful experiences that he put her through.
The young woman said she was.
“The court believes that an Alford plea under these circumstances is inappropriate, because if these allegations are true I don’t see where there is room to deny the elements of the crimes have been met,” Blawie said. “Sexual assault cases are unique in the sense that I believe childhood sexual abuse is like throwing a hand grenade into a child’s life and you can’t always put the pieces back together, and sentences must reflect the damage that is inflicted.”
Blawie then told Torres that he would not go through with the sentencing as long as he made his guilty pleas under Alford.
“The lack of responsibility acceptance does not serve the interests of justice,” he said. “I believe that psychiatrists that are skilled in treating and evaluating sexual offenders are of the opinion that there is no known treatment for an individual who sexually assaults young women who does not admit to it in any way.”
He then told Torres that he would vacate his guilty pleas and put the case back on the trial list if he would not make straight guilty pleas to the sexual assault and risk of injury charges.
After two breaks with his attorney Ioannis Kaloidis and a phone call to someone else, Torres agreed.
In her statement to Blawie, the young woman finished by saying, “I urge the court and state’s attorney to make sure this animal gets to serve every day of his jail time because this is a man who will never be able to stop himself. You don’t get to win this one and I hope you spend every day for the rest of your life regretting what you have done.”