Will Former Phoenix Southwest Key Worker Accused Of Sex Crimes Take Plea Deal?

Published: Friday, May 3, 2019 - 8:56pm
Updated: Monday, May 6, 2019 - 12:55pm
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Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Fernando Negrete.

There’s a plea bargain on the table for a former worker at a shelter for unaccompanied migrant children, who stands accused of sex crimes against a 14-year-old girl.

The alleged incident occurred at a Southwest Key Programs facility in Phoenix last year — the night before First Lady Melania Trump visited the same campus near 27th and Campbell avenues.

Fernando Magaz Negrete, 33, faces charges of child molestation, sexual abuse and aggravated assault.

As he sat handcuffed and wearing orange Friday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court, a judge told Negrete through an interpreter that pleading guilty to attempted molestation and attempted sexual abuse could mean between 4.3 and 8.5 years behind bars. After release, he’d be on lifetime supervised probation.

The judge, who later described planned witness testimony against Negrete as “compelling evidence,” told him to consider that 8.5 years is about half the amount of prison time he could get if a jury convicts him of the molestation charge.

Negrete denied that the girl was 14 years old, but the judge told him that not knowing her age isn’t a legal defense. And the prosecutor told him it would still be a crime if she were 15 or 16.

Negrete at one point questioned whether evidence exists that he told police he’d kissed the girl, but later admitted he’d listened audio of an interview he did with investigators.

Negrete also suggested that his own lawyer had kept evidence from him, which the judge immediately called a lie.

The case is scheduled for trial June 3.  

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