COA reduces 300-year child molesting sentence

A man convicted on numerous counts of child molesting had his 300-year sentence slightly reduced after the Indiana Court of Appeals found no evidence in the record to support one of his convictions.

Ricardo Hernandez Vasquez was sentenced to an aggregate of 300 years behind bars after he was convicted for three counts of Class A felony child molesting, one count of Class C felony child molesting, four counts of Level 1 felony child molesting and two counts of Level 3 felony child molesting.

Vasquez argued multiple issues on appeal, including whether there was sufficient evidence to support his conviction of the second Level 3 felony count. He also claimed the Marshall Superior Court erred and abused its discretion, respectively, by denying Vasquez’s motion to sever eight counts involving one victim from two involving the second victim, and by allowing the state to present closing argument regarding an appellate standard of review.

The Indiana Court of Appeals in a Friday decision reversed in part and remanded on his first argument, agreeing, along with the state, that there wasn’t any evidence in the record to support the second Level 3 felony conviction. It therefore reduced his sentence to 288 years.

However, the court declined to reverse on the issue of severance as a right.

“Like (Pierce v. State, 29 N.E.3d 1258, 1264 (Ind. 2015)), Vasquez exploited his position as a trusted member of J.D.’s household to sexually abuse young female family members who stayed in the house, which actions resulted in overlapping investigations. Thus, the charges were not just of the same or similar character under (Indiana Code § 35-34-1-9(a)(1)) but were also a series of acts connected as part of a single scheme under subsection 9(a)(2), and the trial court therefore properly denied Vasquez’s motion for separation as of right under Indiana Code section 35-34-1-11,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the appellate court.

The COA similarly held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Vasquez’s motion for discretionary severance.

It also declined to reverse because of the trial court’s decision to allow the prosecutor to argue an appellate standard of review to the jury in closing argument. While inappropriate, the argument permitted by the trial court did not create reversible error.

Lastly, the COA declined to reduce the 288-year sentence as inappropriate in Ricardo Hernandez Vasquez v. State of Indiana, 20A-CR-2344.

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