Man convicted in absentia on nine of 13 counts in child sex abuse case -- Gazette.Net


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A Gaithersburg man accused of paying a woman who owed him $5,000 to have sex with her daughter has been convicted of human trafficking.

The Montgomery County jury on Friday also found Bejarni Rivas, 45, of Irish Court in Gaithersburg, guilty of eight other crimes, including conspiring to commit human trafficking, of committing sex abuse and sex offenses, and soliciting sex from a minor.

The jury acquitted Rivas — who was not at the trial because he had fled — of second-degree rape, human trafficking, attempting to commit a sex offense and conspiring to commit a sex offense.

Rivas’ co-defendant — a 41-year old Germantown woman who is the girl’s mother — was convicted Sept. 19 of 10 crimes, including sex abuse of a minor, conspiracy to commit sex abuse, a sex offense charge, human trafficking of a minor, human trafficking by a parent and rape.

According to prosecutors, Rivas wanted to have a relationship with the girl and paid her mother so he could have sex with the girl.

The Gazette is not naming the mother to protect the identity of her daughter.

During the trial, jurors learned that there were two instances of alleged abuse. The first act took place in December 2012 at a clubhouse at the Georgian Colonies in Silver Spring, where Rivas molested the girl. In the second, which took place in January 2013 in a locker room in the clubhouse, the mother told the girl that she had to have sex with Rivas.

“I’m not going to have sex with him,” the girl testified she had told her mother, later adding, “I remember begging her, not to go with Bejarni.”

“I’ve done bad things to make you have a good life, go with him,” the victim testified her mother told her. After one of the incidents, she also saw Rivas give her mother a wad of cash, she said during the trial.

The girl, who was 14 at the time of the first incident of abuse, testified that in the second encounter, Rivas forced her to have sex with him.

However, the jury cleared Rivas of the rape charge he faced for that encounter.

When the victim’s mother arranged a third meeting between the two in March 2013 at her home in Germantown, the girl fled to a relative’s house and called police.

Rivas faced charges of attempted sex offense, conspiring to commit human trafficking and conspiring to commit a sex offense for that third incident. He was acquitted of those charges Friday, along with the rape charge.

Esteban Gergely, one of Rivas’s attorneys, questioned the credibility of the victim and argued that Rivas’s requests for a lawyer while in police custody had been ignored for two and a half hours.

“That is illegal,” he told jurors in closing arguments Thursday.

He also said that despite the rape charge, investigators never found DNA evidence in the locker room where the incident was alleged to have occurred.

Montgomery County State’s Attorney spokesman Ramon Korionoff hailed the verdict.

“Mr. Rivas was a predator who took advantage of a vulnerable young girl and used the debt her mother owed [him] to pressure her into sexual acts,” he told The Gazette in an email.

Rivas also paid the girl $100 each time he abused her, according to court records.

The mother is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday. Prosecutors have said she could receive a sentence of more than 100 years in prison.

Rivas’ case was noteworthy because he fled from Montgomery County just days before his trial was set to begin. He was released on $100,000 bail in April.

Steven D. Kupferberg, one of the lawyers representing Rivas, had argued earlier that trying Rivas in absentia should only take place in the “most extreme of situations,” but this was not one of them.

He disputed the human trafficking charges against Rivas.

In Rivas’s case, he said, “the question is do you violate the most sacred right that Americans have — to confront and cross-examine your accuser? That’s what [happened] here,” he said.

A sentencing date for Rivas was not set.

He could receive more than 100 years in prison, according to Korionoff.

sjbsmith@gazette.net