Girl jailed after avoiding trial of man accused of molesting her

AKRON, Ohio - A 14-year-old girl has been jailed for a week after running away to avoid testifying against a man accused of molesting her.

Common Pleas Judge James Murphy ordered the girl held indefinitely. She's been incarcerated since Wednesday at the Summit County Jail, where Capt. Steve Finical said she's been isolated from adult inmates.

Murphy tried to have the girl held in the county's Juvenile Detention Center, but Juvenile Court Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio said federal law prevents the detention of juveniles who are not accused of a crime.

The girl has requested a lawyer, according to court records. But jail officials said Monday that she isn't permitted contact with anyone unless county prosecutors approve.

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.

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.

Sanchez-Pesantes, of Akron, is accused of having unlawful sexual conduct with the teen in January. He is free on bond and was to have a pretrial hearing 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."

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