CONYERS - A man involved in a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl was ordered to spend the next five years in prison after pleading guilty in Rockdale County Superior Court on Thursday.
Superior Court Judge David Irwin ordered Gilberto Fernandez-Gonzales to spend the first five years of a 15-year sentence in prison on two counts of statutory rape.
Gonzales, 19, was also ordered to undergo sex offender treatment and, as a special condition, he is to have no further contact with the victim. Violation of a special condition can result in the balance of the sentence being served in prison.
Gonzales was also ordered to have no contact with any female child under the age of 16 and he will be required to register as a sex offender.
An interpreter was used during the plea hearing since Gonzales did not speak English well enough to understand the court proceedings.
Defense attorney Owen Humphries asked the judge to consider a straight five-year prison sentence. Humphries said his client was in the country illegally and would likely face deportation once released from prison.
"I don't know what the federal government may or may not do, and if they deport him that's fine," Irwin said. "But if for some reason he is released from prison and not deported, the court wants to know his whereabouts."
The charges stem from an investigation that started earlier this year when authorities learned Gonzales and the girl were engaged in sexual relations on a regular basis. Gonzales was then arrested for statutory rape.
He was allowed to post bond with orders from the court to stay away from the girl, but in May authorities responded to a possible kidnapping and sexual assault near the Georgia International Horse Park.
The victim initially said she had been accosted by Gonzales, but as the investigation proceeded, authorities learned the two had continued their relationship after his first arrest.
Gonzales was again charged with statutory rape in connection with the second incident and remained in jail. Assistant District Attorney Debra Sullivan noted the girl continued to correspond with Gonzales while he was in jail.
Gonzales' attorney told the judge his research indicated that in most parts of Mexico, the age of consent is 12 and his client's behavior could be attributed in large part to cultural standards.
Irwin agreed that might be the case, but that the law in Georgia was clear. Despite the fact that no force was alleged in the sexual activity, state law dictates that a 13-year-old can not legally consent to sexual activity.
"In the court's mind, carnal knowledge between an adult and a 13-year-old is never appropriate," the judge said.
Ric Latarski can be reached at email@example.com.