Photo by Joe Chitwood
Anthony J. Vigil
Anthony Vigil was sentenced to up to15 years in the state penitentiary Monday for first degree sexual assault of a minor.The sentence was handed down in Lincoln County District Court. It carries a minimum of 7.5 years.
Vigil was arrested Oct. 20, 2015 after police investigated a report that he had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl for four months earlier that year.
The girl was staying with a temporary guardian, who grew suspicious when the girl received expensive gifts, letters and text messages, according to the police. The victim said she had intercourse with Vigil on more than one occasion inside a car.
Vigil, 47, was convicted on March 27. He pled no contest, accepting a plea agreement that reduced the charge from first-degree sexual assault of a child to first-degree assault of a minor.
That reduced the sentence from up to life imprisonment, to up to 20 years.
Defense Attorney Chad Wythers presented depositions into the record from two doctors that evaluated Vigil concerning a head injury that may have impaired his judgment.
Lincoln County District Court Judge Richard Birch quickly reviewed the documents and added them to the pre-sentence investigation report.
Birch also gave Vigil a sex offender registration form to sign and added it to the record.
Chief Deputy Tanya Roberts-Connick argued for a “lengthy term in prison.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that this relationship happened,” Roberts-Connick said. “In this case, you had a 45-year-old adult man in a position of power and supervision over a 14-year-old girl,” she said
She said Vigil used that power to his advantage and begin a relationship “that regardless of whether or not she willingly went into it or didn’t, the law says she can’t.”
She was “somewhat astounded” that Vigil accepted no accountability for his role and “little or no remorse” for his actions.
“This concerns me,” she said. “He entered a relationship that was not only inappropriate but illegal and shows no concern about what this relationship did to her or will do to her in the future.”
Wythers argued for probation. He said he was “not quite sure” that Vigil actually had a position of power over the victim.
“None the less, with all the emotion aside, when you analyze the statute, he is a good candidate for probation.”
He disagreed that his client did not accept responsibility for his actions.
“He entered a plea of no contest and Mr. Vigil is accepting responsibility for the things he has done and understands his relationship with this minor girl was both immoral and illegal,” Wythers said.
Wythers said there are three primary factors the court must consider to determine if a sentence of probation is appropriate for an offender.
“Number 1, is whether or not it is likely that during the term of probation the offender will engage in additional criminal conduct,” he said. “He is 50 years old and has limited or no criminal history. And there is little doubt that Mr. Vigil would abide by conditions of probation.”
Secondly, Wythers said the court must consider the type of treatment available to the offender.
“It goes without saying that nobody gets good treatment for anything in the department of corrections,” he said. “If the court believes that treatment is necessary or psychotherapy is necessary, then that treatment is best served outside a correctional facility. That particular fact weighs in the favor of a sentence of probation,” he said.
“Finally, the third factor the court must consider,” he argued, “is whether or not a lesser sentence would depreciate the seriousness of the event or lose the respect of the law.”
Wythers said it would not.
“Judge, we know of situations where similar types of crimes have occurred and defendants have received probation and giving Mr. Vigil a sentence of probation or a short term of incarceration will not promote disrespect for the law.”
Wythers also noted that the pre-sentence investigation stated that Vigil was a low risk to reoffend.
“He has an education. He is a former United States Marine and worked for the railroad for a number of years.”
“I would suggest that when a PSI that has this kind of information in it, we would be jumping up and down trying to find a way to put somebody on probation,” Wythers said.
“But in this particular case, because we have a grown man who had some inappropriate actions with a young girl – even if the young girl wanted to engage in that behavior and did submit an impact statement and was adamant that she instigated some of it, we are so eager to put someone in prison for those type of actions, when we should consider the statutory factors that make him a great candidate for probation,” he concluded.
Vigil spoke on his own behalf.
“I would like to apologize to my family for putting them through this, and to the court for having to go through this, and apologize for my behavior. That’s all I got to say,” he said.
Birch said he reviewed the PSI and briefly examined the statements from the two doctors concerning Vigil’s head injury.
“The doctor’s reports show that you did suffer a head injury in the past and that injury perhaps had some impact on your ability to control your actions,” Birch said. “I am not sure if that is not a two-edged sword that makes it every bit as dangerous to have you out on the street as it does help explain how this happened,” he said.
“I’ll tell you up front, Mr. Vigil, I don’t think probation is appropriate and even though you do have several things in your favor that came out of the PSI, I think those go more to the determining the length of the sentence you are imposed,” Birch said.
He agreed that Vigil had a minimal prior record and gave him credit for entering a plea, saving the court the time and expense of a trial and the victim the additional pain of testifying.
But Birch disagreed with Wyther’s statement regarding the seriousness of the crime.
“It is an extremely serious offense,” he said. “At the time you were 45, she was 14. That is 31-year difference. And while you may not have been in what would technically be called a position of authority, but certainly a coach is a person that parents place in a position of trust over their children,” Birch said.
“And this is a serious violation of the position of trust as you could ever come up with. I think anything less than a prison sentence would depreciate from the seriousness of this crime, so I am not going to put you on probation.”
Birch said sentences in these types of cases “need to add to the deterrent of other people doing this in the future,” he said.
Birch credited him with three days served.
Wythers said he would file an appeal within 30 days.