4-year term imposed in molestation case

Columbia man convicted of 3rd-degree sex offense

February 10, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

A Columbia man who sexually molested a 5-year-old girl while her distracted older brother tried out the man's fishing gear at Jackson Pond last summer was sentenced yesterday to four years in prison.

The fact that Miguel Ramos, 35, was caught shows that "the hand of God was at work," the girl's mother told Howard Circuit Judge James B. Dudley in a victim impact statement. Investigators were able to identify Ramos after his victim, who has since turned 6, knocked his cellular telephone into the pond during the assault July 27.

"Today, this man is facing his sentence. It doesn't usually turn out this well for the thousands of children who are preyed upon in this world," the mother wrote. " ... My daughter's innocence was stolen from her that day."

The Sun is not naming the mother to protect her daughter's identity.

The four-year term for third-degree sexual offense was more than the three months to two years recommended by state sentencing guidelines.

Prosecutor Lisa Brown, who called the crime "every parent's nightmare," said Dudley's sentence was "appropriate and fair."

While Ramos' lawyer, Ricardo Zwaig, said he had hoped for a more lenient sentence, he said he understands why Dudley imposed the stricter term.

"I think everyone rallies to the side of a child in a situation like this, and I know [Dudley] wanted to send a very strong message to the community at large," Zwaig said later.

Ramos, whose record includes convictions for impaired driving, spousal battery and drug and weapons possession, will face extradition to San Diego, where he is charged in the decade-old forcible rape of a 19-year-old disabled woman, and deportation to his native El Salvador once he serves out his term here, lawyers said.

Ramos, of the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road, was charged a few days after the girl told investigators that she and her brother were riding bikes at the Long Reach village pond when they met a man who was fishing from the bridge. While her brother fished with the man's fishing pole, the man pulled the girl's pants down and sexually touched her, according to court papers.

The girl said she hit the man with her elbow during the assault and his cellular phone toppled into the pond. The man looked for the phone but could not find it, according to charging papers.

A Howard County Fire Department dive team found the phone the next day, and detectives traced it to Ramos through his Hanover-based employer.

Ramos later told police that he had touched the girl after the end of a fishing pole hit her in the groin area but then thought about his own daughters and felt badly, according to prosecutors and a transcript of his police interview.

While the girl, who has been in counseling, seems to be taking it all "in stride" now, her mother and Brown said the full impact of the assault may not become evident until she is older.

"This is something no 5-year-old should have to go through," Brown said.

But Zwaig said nothing Ramos did fits the pattern of a "sexual predator." He committed the assault in a public place with the girl's brother nearby and did not try to swear the 5-year-old to secrecy, the lawyer said. A search of his apartment also turned up no evidence that he was obsessed by sexual thoughts about children, Zwaig said.

His behavior was the "antithesis" of someone who preys on children, Zwaig said.

Ramos, who said his children are "suffering" because he hasn't been able to send money home to El Salvador, promised Dudley that "this is never going to happen again."

"I'm a good Christian," he said through an interpreter. "I fear God, and I asked God that this won't happen again."

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