A 14-year-old girl who ran away to avoid testifying against a man accused of molesting her has been jailed for a week and denied access to an attorney, officials and court records said.
The girl failed to show up May 8 at the trial of 20-year-old Galo Sanchez-Pesantes. She was taken into custody a day later when her mother found her and called police.
Prosecutors said the teen is a material witness. They wanted her girl jailed “so that she is not on the streets where we can’t find her or she’s doing things she shouldn’t be doing,” said Mary Ann Kovach, who heads the Summit County prosecutor’s criminal division.
Common Pleas Judge James Murphy ordered the girl held indefinitely. The girl has requested a lawyer, according to court records. But jail officials said she isn’t permitted contact with anyone unless county prosecutors approve.
Sanchez-Pesantes, of Akron, is accused of having unlawful sexual conduct with the teen in January. He is free on bond and had a pretrial hearing scheduled Tuesday.
Defense attorneys said the girl denied having sex and would not write a statement for police. They have asked that his case be dismissed and say the state has “effectively kidnapped” the girl.
“When you take a child and put her in jail and deny her access to counsel because she refuses to be labeled a material witness, essentially it’s an abuse of power,” attorney Alex Folk said. “I don’t think the state has the right to put a 14-year-old in jail without due process. And in this case, there has been no due process.”