FORT EDWARD — A farm worker who is in the U.S. illegally has rejected a plea offer in a child sex assault case and appears headed to trial in Washington County Court in the coming weeks.
Ricardo Barajas-Suarez, 33, faces felony counts of first-degree criminal sexual act, second-degree criminal sexual act and first-degree sexual abuse and misdemeanor charges of forcible touching for alleged sexual assaults of a 14-year-old girl in Salem last summer.
He has pleaded not guilty and refused a plea deal that includes a five-year state prison term to be followed by 10 years on parole.
Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said no resolution to the charges had been reached as of this week.
Barajas-Suarez’ lawyer, Washington County Public Defender Michael Mercure, said his staff was awaiting rulings on pretrial motions, but a trial appeared likely.
“At this point, we are certainly preparing for trial,” Mercure said.
Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan has scheduled the case for trial starting Feb. 5, with pretrial hearings set for Jan. 26.
Barajas-Suarez was working at a farm in southern Washington County and was accused of forcing the teen to have sexual contact at a home off the farm property where he had been staying, police said.
State Police were called after the girl, with whom the defendant was acquainted, ran from her room screaming about the attack, authorities said. She suffered no apparent physical injuries, police said.
Police said Barajas-Suarez is a native of Mexico who had been arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Washington County in November 2016 when he was found to have overstayed a work visa, but he was released a short time later because he “did not meet the (federal) administration requirements” for deportation at the time, officials said at the time of his arrest.
State Police did not identify the farm where Barajas-Suarez had been working, but they said at least one other illegal immigrant was detained for immigration violations during the investigation.
The charges are punishable by up to 32 years in state prison, and Barajas-Suarez faces deportation after his release from jail.
He is being held in Washington County Jail, pending further court action.