FORT EDWARD — The New York City man who is accused of kidnapping a Hudson Falls girl when she ran away from home last September said Friday that he had no idea she was 12 years old when she begged him for a ride to New York City.
George Torres was in Washington County Court for a pre-trial hearing Friday, and afterward was incredulous that the case against him appeared to be proceeding to trial.
The 19-year-old said he and the girl had corresponded online for a period of time, and he said she consistently represented herself as significantly older than her real age. He asked a reporter if he had seen the online messaging correspondence between them, which has been filed in court. (They show she told him she was born in April 2001.)
“I can’t believe this. They are setting a trial date. I’m starting to get concerned,” he said as he waited for his lawyer, Robert Winn, to finish a conference with prosecutors.
“Can you do anything to help me?” the wheelchair-bound paraplegic asked a reporter. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
His remarks came after a fiery hearing in his case, in which Washington County prosecutors responded to accusations Winn made that they engaged in “prosecutorial misconduct” when pushing for Torres to be jailed last fall under what he believed were false pretenses. Winn said evidence shows that authorities knew the girl was safe and her whereabouts known by police, but prosecutors did not relay that to the judge.
Washington County First Assistant District Attorney Christian Morris called Winn’s claims “outrageous and venomous” and “unsupported by facts and law.” He said Winn should withdraw the accusations, or his office would seek “sanctions for filing such a frivolous” motion.
Winn responded that the evidence showed that police knew the girl was safe the night before Torres was arraigned, and that she had been in contact with her family while on the run.
Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan interrupted his response and directed him to reply in writing to the prosecution’s written response to his motion in the coming weeks.
“Serious accusations have been made by you, a serious response has been made by the people (prosecution),” the judge said. “I don’t know where the truth lies.”
Winn said that text messages from the girl to family members the day before Torres’ arrest showed she was unharmed and in communication with her family.
But Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said police had no way to know who was sending the texts from her phone, and that police did not physically locate the girl until hours after Torres was arraigned. The Amber Alert for the girl wasn’t terminated until that point.
“We’ll address each of the issues he (Winn) raised. It’s an issue we take very seriously,” Jordan said.
Winn has asked for the kidnapping, sexually motivated felony and tampering with physical evidence charges to be dismissed, arguing that the girl was not held against her will and had lied to Torres about her age. Evidence showed she willingly went with Torres, two of her friends watching her get in the car with him after school Sept. 26, after convincing him via online conversations to come get her.
The district attorney’s office has contended that she could not legally consent to go with him because of her age, and that he had sexual contact with her outside Washington County.
McKeighan set pre-trial hearings in the case for Feb. 20 and March 15, with trial to start April 1. Torres faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of kidnapping.