Man convicted of sex crimes gets new trial | News, Sports, Jobs
MOUNDSVILLE — A man who previously pleaded guilty to child sex crimes is facing a new trial after sentencing guidelines were not followed, prosecutors say.
In June 2020, Saul Vega Jr. pleaded guilty to a charge of soliciting and moving to engage a minor in prohibited sexual activity. Judge Jeff Cramer sentenced him to no less than five years and no more than 30 years in prison.
Marshall County District Attorney Joe Canestraro said state code requires the judge to issue a determinate sentence, or a specific length of jail time between five and 30 years, rather than an indeterminate sentence, which Cramer has pronounced. Faced with this information, Vega chose to withdraw his guilty plea and take the case to trial, which began on Tuesday.
“He was sentenced, but it was an illegal sentence – when you look at what he pleaded, he was given an indefinite sentence, when it should have been a determinate sentence. “, Canestraro said. “Indeterminate would be ‘not less than five nor more than (30)’…Instead of correcting the sentence, (Vega) chose that he would prefer to have a trial, so he withdrew his plea.”
Vega had failed to post his $300,000 cash-only bond after his initial arrest in 2019 and has remained incarcerated since his arrest. Vega’s retrial, still before Cramer, began Tuesday, with Eric Gordon representing the state. His trial continues on Wednesday.
According to published reports, Vega, then 41, from Erie, Pennsylvania, made contact with a 13-year-old girl from Glen Dale on the Adult Friend Finder dating site and met her for sex.
The girl told the police that she presented herself as 18 on the site and afterward told friends that she had been sexually assaulted, at which point the police intervened.
Investigators picked up the girl’s online profile, where Vega continued to communicate with police, apparently believing he was in contact with the girl.
Vega reportedly said he found out the girl’s age before proceeding to send sexually explicit messages to the profile for over a month.
Vega allegedly texted a phone he believed to be the girl’s, saying he wanted to “see my daughter” and asking for explicit photos. Vega reportedly continued sending a series of explicit messages over the phone over the next week.
The next day, investigators posing as the girl told Vega that her parents would be out of town while a fictional friend was visiting, in which case Vega would have shown up, with a 12-pack of beers.
At approximately 9 p.m., Vega entered the residence and was immediately detained by West Virginia State Police and federal law enforcement officers.
When questioned, Vega reportedly said he planned to meet the girl he thought he sent, admitting he planned to engage in sexual conduct with her and the friend, as well as revealing more explicit details about their previous contact.