Man accused of raping minor pleads not guilty

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An 18-year-old man accused of raping a 12-year-old girl on church grounds pleaded not guilty before the NMI Superior Court yesterday.

John Timothy Villasis Vergara, 18, pleaded not guilty before Superior Court Presiding Judge Roberto Naraja to the charges of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree and sexual assault in the first degree.

Vergara, who came to court out of Department of Corrections custody, waived the reading of his rights and was ordered to return to court on July 29 at 10am for a status conference before Superior Court Associate Judge Wesley Bogdan.

According to Saipan Tribune archives, Vergara allegedly raped the victim on two occasions: at a birthday party in Micro Beach in August 2020, and in the restroom of the Jesus is Lord Church last June 2 during a church anniversary practice.

During an interview with the victim’s mother on June 8, she told Department of Public Safety investigators that the second alleged rape incident happened during a church anniversary practice.

The following day, June 9, a DPS investigator attended a forensic interview with the victim at the Division of Youth Services where she alleged that the second incident happened at around 7pm on June 2.

The first incident that happened on August 2020 was reported at the Commonwealth Health Center on Jan. 25. During an interview with Dr. Heather Taylor, the victim wrote on a paper that they were celebrating her brother’s birthday at Micro Beach when she went into the ocean with her mother’s friend’s son, Vergara, and the incident happened. That prompted the doctor to report the incident to DPS.

During Vergara’s preliminary hearing last week, Office of the Public Defender’s JP Nogues, the court-appointed counsel for Vergara, extracted testimony from Department of Public Safety detective Shannon Dela Cruz that, as of the hearing, there was no physical evidence in the case.

Kimberly B. Esmores | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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