Monday, January 14, 2008

Sex with 13-year-old girl lands former high school coach in prison

Former Copper Hills High assistant baseball coach Rodrigo Humberto Garza took a deep breath and exhaled Monday as he walked to a courtroom podium, and minutes later, was sentenced to prison for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Garza, now 36, had engaged in a sexual relationship with the girl for about a year, and paid her $300 on at least one occasion.

"You effectively made her a prostitute," said 3rd District Court Judge Terry Christiansen.

Garza pleaded guilty in Nov. 2007 to two second degree felony charges of sexual abuse of a child. Each charge carries a sentence of 1-15 years in prison.

Garza made a brief apology to the girl Monday, who was not present at the sentencing, and said he took responsibility for his actions.

Garza's attorney, Paul Grant, asked Christiansen to sentence his client to a year in a jail, saying Garza wasn't a threat to others and began the relationship with the teen during an emotionally dark time after his father died and he lost a career in sports.

"It appears what drew him to this was not a deep pedophilia," Grant said. But Christiansen decided to order Garza to prison because he had paid her for sex, was employed as a coach at the time of the relationship and was nearly three times her age.
"This girl is young enough to be your daughter, not your girlfriend," Christiansen said. "...If you had a 13-year-old I would almost guarantee you you would be appalled if someone did that with your daughter."
Christiansen sentenced Garza to prison on both charges but ordered that they run concurrently. A bailiff handcuffed Garza after the sentencing and took him into custody. Police have said the crimes had nothing to do with the high school or Garza's duty as a coach.

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