Judge: ‘To say my jaw dropped when I read the statement of charges would be an understatement’
by St. John Barned-Smith
A Germantown woman accused of trafficking and prostituting her daughter to a Gaithersburg man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Shortly before handing down the sentence, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Cheryl A. McCally called the crimes the woman had been accused of “unfathomable” and “unimaginable.”
“When a child is violated ... it goes against every single grain of fiber every person has or should have,” she said, later adding that the victim in the case, a 15-year-old girl, had “been put in a position no human on this earth should be put in.”
The case was one of the most horrifying that she had seen in her career as a judge and lawyer, she said.
“To say my jaw dropped when I read the statement of charges would be an understatement,” she said.
The Gazette is not naming the woman, who is 41, to protect the identity of the victim, who is now 15.
The mother had been charged with second-degree rape, child abuse, prostitution, human trafficking, and other crimes, and convicted in September.
Police said after they arrested her that she had agreed to let a close family friend have sex with her daughter — who was 14 when the abuse first took place — for money.
During the trial, jurors learned that the woman had forced her daughter into having sex with a 45-year-old family friend.
The abuse took place two times, in December 2012 and January 2013 in a clubhouse in Silver Spring, at which point the mother promised her daughter she wouldn’t have to do anything more.
But the teen contacted police in March 2013, after her mother arranged a third encounter between her and Bejarni Rivas, the co-defendant in the case.
Rivas, of Irish Court in Gaithersburg, fled in late September, days before his trial was supposed to begin. He was tried in absentia last month, and convicted of nine of the 14 charges — including human trafficking, conspiring to commit human trafficking, of committing sex abuse and sex offenses, and soliciting sex from a minor — police had brought against him.
According to prosecutors, when the victim texted the mother telling her that she didn’t want to keep being prostituted anymore, the woman texted back, “Goodbye, take care of yourself.”
In court on Wednesday, more details about the woman came to light.
Theresa Chernosky, the woman’s public defender, shared the woman’s background: a daughter of a fisherman in Nicaragua whose life unraveled after his wife died in childbirth when the defendant was 4 years old.
Chernosky said the woman came to the U.S. with an abusive husband when she was just 19, and only summoned the courage to leave the man after giving birth to her daughter. She frequently juggled three different jobs to provide for her family.
“The end result where we are is devastation for an entire family,” said Chernosky, asking for a lesser sentence so the woman could be reconnected with her family.
Chernosky also said in court that since the woman is not a U.S. citizen, she faces deportation after completing her sentence.
“This situation has been very hard for me and my family,” the woman said. Speaking of the ordeal, she said, “I feel like life itself has been drained from me.”
In the proceedings, many of the woman’s friends and family spoke on her behalf. One couple flew from Nicaragua to ask for clemency.
Ramon Briones, who identified himself as an evangelical pastor married to one of the woman’s family members, said through an interpreter that she was “grounded, patient, and generous.”
The victim herself asked for clemency for her mother, calling her a “good person at heart.”
“I need her even though what she did was really wrong,” she said.