FORT EDWARD — A Washington County grand jury has indicted a New York City man on four charges for allegedly kidnapping a 12-year-old girl in Hudson Falls this year, the panel adding two new counts against him.
George A. Torres was charged with felony counts of second-degree kidnapping, sexually motivated felony and tampering with physical evidence and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child in an indictment handed up Thursday in Washington County Court. He pleaded not guilty Thursday during arraignment before Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan, during which Mckeighan reduced bail in the case.
Torres, 19, of Staten Island, was initially charged with kidnapping and endangering the welfare of a child, and the grand jury opted to add two new felonies.
The sexually motivated felony count alleges he kidnapped the girl “for the purpose, in whole or substantial part, of his or her own direct sexual gratification.” It is not alleged he had sexual contact with her in Washington County.
The tampering with physical evidence count was brought because he allegedly tampered with social media messages he had with the girl before he met her.
“When he learned of the Amber Alert, he deleted all Facebook messages with the girl and he blocked her contact,” Washington County First Assistant District Attorney Christian Morris said.
Morris said Torres told acquaintances he had sexual contact with the girl, but no sexual abuse charge was filed in Washington County.
Torres is alleged to have picked her up on a Hudson Falls street the afternoon of Sept. 26 to take her to New York City “to run away with him,” Morris said.
Torres had been conversing with her through social media, and she had asked him to come get her and take her to New York City. But under state law, she could not legally consent to go with him because of her age.
He dropped her off at the Staten Island Ferry, and the girl later met another man who took her to his home.
A three-day search that included an Amber Alert ensued for the child, and she was eventually located in an apartment in New York City, unharmed. A man she met there, Justin Morales, 20, has been charged with rape for his alleged contact with her.
Torres’ lawyer, Robert Winn, said that the girl lied to Torres, and told him she was 18. The kidnapping charge does not seem viable, as the alleged victim was communicating with her family after she ran away, and was not being held against her will, Winn told McKeighan. Torres is also a wheelchair-bound paraplegic who could not restrain her if he wanted to, he noted.
“She was a runaway who did not want to go home, not a kidnapping victim,” Winn said.
McKeighan set bail at $75,000 cash or $150,000 bail bond, which Winn said he believed Torres would be able to post later this week.
Torres faces up to 25 years in state prison if convicted of the kidnapping count.