A Gilroy man one prosecutor called a
at luring teenage girls with promises of trading drugs for sex
has reached a plea deal with the Santa Clara County District
Attorney’s Office for fewer than three years in prison. Full
A Gilroy man one prosecutor called a “genius” at luring teenage girls with promises of trading drugs for sex has reached a plea deal with the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office for fewer than three years in prison.
Jesse Arias, 52, agreed to the deal Thursday morning, almost three months after police raided his home and backyard trailer on Old Gilroy Street, finding a 15-year-old female runaway who had been living there and having sex with him over the course of several months, according to court documents.
It was the first time authorities were able to catch Arias “in the act,” Deputy District Attorney Stuart Scott said. Law enforcement officials were aware of past allegations against Arias, according to Scott, but were never able to charge him because victims often were transients who moved on to other cities.
“This is a guy that picked vulnerable victims – teenage girls from troubled families,” Scott said Friday.
Unable to identify victims, prosecutors never had a case until recently, when a 20-year-old woman who met Arias at a bus stop told police he raped her in a trailer behind his home May 21.
“That’s the problem with prosecuting those (past instances): Those children are often in the wind when it comes time to prosecute,” Scott said.
He added, “This case was typical of what this guy had been doing. This guy was a genius at picking vulnerable victims who weren’t going to be around later. The problem is, you hear the information in a secondary position. The girl is a transient and she’s gone.”
For several months, Arias and the 15-year-old victim lived together in a trailer behind a home where his mother lived, using methamphetamine and engaging in sexual acts, according to court documents.
After the 20-year-old contacted the Gilroy Police Department about being raped, police discovered the 15-year-old, who claimed to have been a child prostitute to feed a cocaine habit since age 12 and ran away from a help center in Los Angeles, according to court documents.
GPD Sgt. Chad Gallacinao said officers have had contact with Arias over the last decade but Gallacinao could not legally provide further details, he said.
In an interview with Arias, the GPD referred to his “pattern of taking underage runaway girls into his home,” according to court documents.
The plea deal, reached to spare the 15-year-old victim from testifying during a jury trial, reduces the charges against Arias to one count of lewd and lascivious on a child age 14 or 15, and one count of possession of child pornography, which includes illicit photos Arias took of the young runaway, Scott said.
Other than the six-year maximum sentence and desire to keep the victim off the stand, Scott would not comment on reasons for the plea deal.
Prosecutors originally charged Arias with five counts related to lewd acts and child pornography. Arias, who will be forced to register as a sex offender for life, faced a maximum sentence of six years in prison, Scott said.
He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 12. Arias will likely be sentenced to two years, eight months in prison, though how much credit Arias will receive for time served has not been determined, Scott said.
Scott said the district attorney’s office does not intend to file charges related to the alleged 20-year-old victim but declined to give further information.
After detaining Arias at his home and securing a search warrant May 23, police found the 15-year-old runaway and seized 26 items from his trailer, including several pipes used for smoking methamphetamine, many pornographic movies and magazines and several sex toys, according to court documents.
Police also seized Arias’ computer – set to his Facebook page at the time of the search – which had folders filled with photos of nude women, some of them of the 15-year-old.
Police reported the 27-foot trailer appeared as though it hadn’t been moved for years, according to court documents.
The 15-year-old told police Arias bought her a cell phone and laptop, and would provide her with drugs or alcohol “whenever I wanted,” according to court documents. In an interview with police, Arias originally said he thought the runaway was 18, but later admitted to taking in underage girls “to help children and put them on the right path,” according to court documents.
When asked why he didn’t call police to report the runaways, Arias said he didn’t want to betray their trust.
“The majority of these kids come out of homes where there’s neglect,” said Perla Flores, a program director for Community Solutions, a South County nonprofit that aids victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults. “If you have a 14- or 15-year-old girl who’s not getting that attention at home, here comes someone who is offering that to them.”
In interviews with police, Arias said he fell in love with the runaway and would have married her if she was 18, according to court documents. Flores said those statements are common in cases that may involve child prostitution.
“Usually when these relationships start out, it’s around, ‘We’re going to have a relationship’, then they groom that child to ‘if you’re going to be with me I need your help,'” Flores said.
Regarding drug use, Flores said the facet of Arias and the victim’s relationship was “not uncommon.”
“It’s another hook. They will get their girls addicted to drugs,” she said.
Police sometimes deal with runaways, Sgt. Gallacinao said, but they aren’t often found involved in such extreme settings as the Arias case, Gallacinao said.
“Does it go to that level? I’d say no. That’s probably the exception and not the rule,” he said. “The kids aren’t engaged in that kind of activity that we’re aware of.”