FORT EDWARD — The man who drove a 12-year-old Hudson Falls girl to New York City last fall, where she was sexually abused and raped, pleaded guilty Thursday to all of the charges against him, including a kidnapping charge.
George A. Torres, 19, pleaded guilty to the full indictment against him, declining to accept a plea deal and instead planning to plead for mercy when sentenced next month. He faces a minimum of 5 years in state prison and a maximum of 25. Charges included kidnapping, sexually motivated felony, tampering with physical evidence and endangering the welfare of a child.
The plea stemmed from the girl’s efforts to run away from home last Sept. 26, resulting in an Amber Alert warning and massive search for her that led to her being found in an apartment in New York City the next day.
Torres’ plea came despite the fact the girl lied about her age, arranged the trip, willingly accompanied him and there were no allegations he held her against her will. He is a wheelchair-bound paraplegic, and she did everything she could to avoid those who were trying to find her for nearly 48 hours.
But under state law, she was too young to legally consent to go with him. And prosecutors allege that when he learned her age, he did not help her return home, instead dropping her at the Staten Island Ferry terminal, where she met a vendor who later had sex with her. That man, Justin Morales, 20, of Staten Island, has been charged with first-degree rape in New York City.
Torres was accused of fondling the girl, whom he met on social media, in New York City.
Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said the case illustrated the dangers of the Internet, social media and children with access to them.
“This is the perfect storm where you mix a predator with a vulnerable child,” he said.
Torres’ lawyer, Joseph Murphy III, said his client’s main reason for pleading guilty was to spare the girl from trauma from having to testify at a trial that was to start Monday. He said Torres was remorseful and never intended to hurt anyone.
Murphy said sentencing parameters were discussed during conferences with Judge Kelly McKeighan, but he would not divulge them Thursday.
He said his client decided not to accept a plea deal offer from the Washington County District Attorney’s Office so that he would preserve his right to appeal pre-trial evidentiary rulings, despite the guilty plea.
Torres’ defense lawyers had pointed to the fact that the girl told him she was 17, but authorities have said there was evidence he knew that she was actually 12 at some point before he left her.
Murphy said his client did not know her age until they were at his home in Staten Island.
He said Torres is a paraplegic because of an accident that claimed the life of his sister, “circumstances that limited his social development.”
“He’s a kid who made a terrible decision he didn’t quite understand,” Murphy said.
Jordan said he could not comment Thursday as to when Torres learned the girl’s age, saying that his office will file a sentencing memorandum that will outline the proof.
“There is nothing innocent nor accidental about what happened here,” he said.
Torres had been free on bail, but surrendered himself Thursday to begin accruing time toward the completion of his sentence. He is to be sentenced May 17.