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Alexander Reyes gets 40 years in Sex Abuse Case
August 14, 2013
For Immediate Release
Newport News, Virginia
Newport News man gets 40 years in sex abuse case
By Peter Dujardin, email@example.com | 247-4749
August 14, 2013
NEWPORT NEWS — A Newport News man was sentenced Wednesday to 40 years behind bars after being convicted in June of sexually abusing a teenage girl on multiple occasions in late 2011.
In handing down the sentence, Newport News Circuit Court Judge H. Vincent Conway Jr. imposed all but 10 years of the jury's recommendation that Alexander Reyes spend 50 years in prison for the crimes.
Reyes, 50, is a former firefighter at Newport News Shipbuilding who later worked for contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan before coming home when his wife died in 2011.
He was found guilty at the June trial of aggravated sexual battery, two counts of having carnal knowledge with a minor, and one count of taking indecent liberties with a juvenile. The girl was 12 and 13 years old at the time.
With his sentence, Conway far exceeded state sentencing guidelines in the case. Those discretionary guidelines — based on a defendant's criminal record, the age of the defendant and other factors — called for Reyes to get between two years and 10 months and seven years and 11 months.
According to court documents, Reyes was offered a plea agreement in February of this year that would have allowed him to plead guilty on one of the charges and get out on time served. That would have been an Alford plea, in which a defendant maintains his innocence, but acknowledges the prosecution has enough evidence to convict him.
Though Reyes initially accepted that plea deal, he later turned it down when he learned he couldn't get out of jail that day. The agreement had been delayed because the prior judge on the case wanted to get a pre-sentence report before agreeing to the sentence.
Reyes' defense attorney, George Yates, who contends that Reyes is innocent of all the charges, argued strenuously on Wednesday that Conway should reverse the jury's guilty verdict on the case, or grant a new trial.
After Conway denied those motions, Yates asked for leniency on the sentence itself. "At least sentence him to somewhere within the guidelines, Judge Conway," Yates exhorted, asking for "much, much less time."
"The (jury's recommendation) is a life sentence, and the guidelines are much less," Yates said.
But Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Chad Perkins asked Conway to stick with the jury's recommendation of 50 years. "This is what the defendant wanted," Perkins said of a jury trial. "And now he's upset because he didn't get his way."
Perkins contended that the state sentencing guidelines were low given the nature and facts of the case. "This little girl was repeatedly sexually abused," Perkins said. "She's got to live with the result."
Perkins said that at the trial, the teenager testified that she "never knew that life could be so cruel."
"If he could do this to (the victim)," Perkins asked, "who else will he do this to in this community?"
Judges in Virginia have the power to reduce the jury's sentencing recommendation in a case, but most don't do so — with judges in Hampton Roads nearly always following the jury's recommendation.
Though Conway cut only 10 years of the 50-year recommendation, the fact that he cut any time at all actually puts Wednesday's sentence somewhat out of the norm.
Conway sentenced Reyes to 20 years, with 10 of those years suspended, on the aggravated sexual battery charge; 10 years on the indecent liberties charge; and 10 years apiece on the two carnal knowledge charges.
Reyes took the witness stand before being sentenced, and began a monologue that got into lots of details from the trial. Perkins objected, saying the comments were far afield for a sentencing proceeding. Conway initially allowed Reyes some leeway, given the amount of time he faced.
"I'm being wrongly accused," Reyes said, saying the girl was mad at him and trying to get back at him. "I am not guilty." Eventually, Conway cut Reyes off, telling him to get off the witness stand because he was adding nothing new.
The girl first came forward in early 2012, saying that she had had sex several times with Reyes in the fall of 2011. At the time, the girl said many of the sex acts occurred early that fall, when she was 12.
But the girl later changed the dates, telling investigators the sex occurred later in the fall, when she was 13 rather than 12. Under the law in Virginia, that necessitated downgrading the original "rape" charges to having had "carnal knowledge" with a minor.
In August 2012, Yates said, the teen recanted the allegations, telling Reyes' attorneys that she had made them up because she was mad at Reyes. But later, the teen recanted her recantation, standing by her original story that Reyes had assaulted her.
During the trial, the girl dropped what Yates called "an absolute bombshell" — that her first sexual encounter with Reyes was actually with a sex toy when she was 12. Though that arose for the first time during the trial, Yates said, it became the basis for one of the convictions.
In his motion to reverse the jury verdict, Yates asserted that the fact that she had not brought that up earlier was "contrary to human experience" — because people "remember their first time."
That, coupled with her changing dates and stories, made the girl's testimony "inherently incredible," he said.
"Her story changed in fundamental ways, not just minor ways," Yates said. "In 25 years of practice in the area, quite frankly I've never seen a weaker case."
Conway, however, rejected Yates' arguments, adding that he "doesn't accept the hyperbole" of Yates' statements.
Conway said the 12-member jury had all the information at trial, including the recantation, the changing dates and the sex toy story. "You had ample opportunity to bring out all the misstatements," Conway told Yates. Though people's stories shift, he added, "the question is whether they're telling the truth, under oath, on the trial date."
"The jury was the fact-finder in this case," Conway said. While Yates might think that failing to bring up the sex toy story earlier was outside of human experience, Conway said, "that's an opinion," not a fact.
In order to overturn the jury's verdict, Conway said, he would have to find that "no reasonable person would have come to this conclusion," and the judge said he simply didn't find that in this case. Conway also said he didn't buy Reyes' theory that the girl was trying to get back at him.
Copyright © 2013, Newport News, Va., Daily Press