FORT EDWARD — A farm worker who is in the U.S. illegally pleaded guilty Friday in Washington County Court for sexually assaulting a young girl in Salem last summer.

Ricardo Barajas-Suarez, 33, pleaded guilty to third-degree criminal sexual act, a felony, in connection with sexual assaults of a 14-year-old girl last July.

He agreed to a plea deal that includes a three-year state prison term to be followed by 10 years on parole. The guilty plea came just days before a jury trial was to start.

Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan praised the girl’s courage in cooperating with police and prosecutors.

“Thankfully she was a brave young girl and with the work of the State Police and Washington County dispatchers, we were able to hold him accountable without her having to testify again,” he said.

The teen testified before the grand jury that indicted Barajas-Suarez.

Barajas-Suarez’ lawyer, Washington County Public Defender Michael Mercure, could not be reached for comment Friday.

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 bedroom screaming about the attack, alerting others in the home, 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.

Barajas-Suarez faces deportation after his release from jail.

Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan had scheduled the case for trial starting Feb. 5.

Barajas-Suarez is being held in Washington County Jail, pending further court action.

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reporter - crimes & courts, public safety and Warren County government

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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