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Waco man placed on deferred probation in sexual assault of runaway teenager

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A Waco man who admitted to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old runaway last year was placed on deferred probation Monday.

Judge Thomas West of Waco’s 19th State District Court approved a plea agreement between the state and Jose Antonio Sierra and sentenced him to deferred probation for 10 years.

Waco police charged Sierra, 22, with trafficking of a person, a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison, and sexual assault of a child, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutor Sharon Pruitt agreed to dismiss the trafficking count in exchange for Sierra’s guilty plea to sexual assault of a child and her offer of deferred probation. In deferred probation cases, there is no final judgment of guilt if defendants complete the terms and conditions of probation.

“A trial in this matter would have been detrimental to the progress that the victim has made in counseling and therapy,” Pruitt said. “It would have set her back.”

Sierra’s attorney, Sandy Gately, suggested that Waco police possibly overcharged the case.

“It is not uncommon for law enforcement to view a case one way and then a prosecutor gets it and evaluates it and realizes it will probably be more successful to go another way,” Gately said. “And I think that is what they did here.”

According to records filed in the case, the 14-year-old girl told police she was a runaway from Marshall. She was brought to Waco in May 2020 by an unknown man and said she came to Waco because she has a friend here.

She reported Sierra picked her up in Hewitt and took her to a home, where “she was forcibly sexually assaulted while she was a runaway in McLennan County,” according to an arrest affidavit.

“The victim’s outcry was corroborated by an involved party in a forensic interview,” the affidavit states. “The victim identified the defendant in a photo line-up.”

Sierra admitted picking the girl up in Hewitt and taking her to another location, according to court records.

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