Man, 35, pleads guilty to sexual assault on girl

He abused 5-year-old by pond in Long Reach


December 24, 2003|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A 35-year-old Columbia man accused of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old girl while her older brother used the man's gear to fish at Jackson Pond last summer pleaded guilty yesterday to a third-degree sexual offense.

In return for Miguel Ramos' plea, Howard prosecutors said they would limit their request for active jail time to five years. Ramos' sentencing before Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley is scheduled for Feb. 9.

On a day set aside for arguments on motions filed in the case, Ramos, a Salvadoran immigrant with five children in his native country, agreed to admit involvement in the assault July 27 and told Dudley through an interpreter that his incarceration had been a hardship on his family.

"They are suffering because of this," said Ramos, who is being held on $500,000 bond. "... I eat here three times a day, but sometimes my children eat only twice."

Later, Ramos' lawyer, Ricardo Zwaig, said he did not believe the crime showed a "predatory" pattern. Ramos, of the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road, assaulted the child in a public place with her brother nearby, and a search of his house found nothing to suggest that he was preoccupied with sexual thoughts about children, Zwaig said.

"He didn't do any of the things typically associated with predatory behavior," he said. "... I think this is kind of a fluke."

Prosecutors said that they spoke to the girl's family before yesterday's hearing and that the family agreed with the plea. The Sun does not name victims of sexual assault.

The assault was discovered after the girl's parents noticed the 5-year-old was quieter than usual after she and her brother returned from the Long Reach village pond, where they had been riding bikes, prosecutors said.

The girl, who has since turned 6, later told her mother that a man there offered to let them use his fishing pole. While her brother was distracted with fishing, the man pulled her pants down and touched her, prosecutors said.

The girl also told investigators that she had bumped into the man with her elbow during the assault and that the movement knocked his cellular telephone into the pond, prosecutors said. The girl said the man was angry and took off his socks and shoes to look for the phone but could not find it, prosecutors said.

A fire department dive team found the phone in the water after the children directed investigators to a bridge off the bike path that prosecutors said was isolated. The phone was traced to Ramos' Hanover-based employer and then to him, prosecutors said.

Ramos had told his bosses that three men robbed him of the telephone and money, prosecutors said.

Ramos later told investigators that he was helping the girl fish when the pole hit against her groin area, according to lawyers and a transcript of his police interview. He admitted that he touched the girl and said he was remorseful because he had daughters, prosecutors said. He said he wanted to apologize to the girl's family, prosecutors said.

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