‘I think it’s wrong’: Family protests plea deal in Idaho child sexual abuse case
Victoria Diaz said she remembers July 19, 2019, as the day of a frightening phone call:
“Mom, he won’t stop raping me.”
Just 14 days before, she said, Diaz’s daughter, then 14, had met her biological father, Nathan Perez, in central California. In the days after, Diaz said Perez drove across multiple states before stopping in Nampa, allegedly sexually abusing the girl along the way. When Diaz received that call, she left her Kern County, California, home and drove 19 hours to Idaho.
“I fell to the floor,” Diaz told the Idaho Statesman in an interview Friday outside the Canyon County Courthouse in Caldwell. “I just started driving. I didn’t even tell my husband I was leaving.”
Diaz said she found her daughter hiding in a trash can, trying to avoid Perez. They called the Nampa Police Department to file a report and have a rape kit completed.
Two years later, Diaz again finds herself in Canyon County, her daughter by her side. This time, her ire is directed toward the Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office.
The Statesman typically does not identify accusers in sex crimes cases, but Diaz has allowed for her daughter to be known as the minor in this case. In fact, for several days last week, the two of them were outside the courthouse in Caldwell holding signs and protesting a proposed plea deal in Perez’s case.
The Statesman, however, is not revealing the girl’s name.
Perez, who has been jailed in Canyon County since charges were filed this past January, was initially charged with three counts of lewd conduct with a minor under 16 and one count of sexual abuse of a child under the age of 16. In Idaho, a lewd conduct conviction alone holds a maximum sentence of up to life in prison.
Court records obtained by the Statesman show that earlier this month, Perez’s attorney and a Canyon County prosecutor signed off on a Rule 11 plea agreement that would allow Perez to plead guilty to one count of felony injury to a child. A Rule 11 plea agreement is a deal between the defense and prosecutors where the defendant must plead guilty to a certain charge and be given a specific punishment. A judge can either accept or reject a Rule 11 plea agreement, but they cannot alter it.
The deal would recommend that Perez be sentenced to a term of three years fixed in prison and plus seven years of indeterminate prison time. That means he’d be eligible for parole as early as 2024, but could be kept in prison until 2031 at the latest.
The deal also contains a lifetime no-contact order between Perez and the girl, but it would not mandate that he register as a sex offender.
Diaz and her daughter said they are hoping their demonstration can make someone think twice about the agreement.
“I think it’s wrong that (the prosecutor is) gonna let him out so soon, so that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing, it’s because he deserves to be in prison for his whole life,” the teenager told the Statesman.
Plea agreements like the one Perez has entered with the prosecution must be approved by a judge in court, meaning it’s possible the deal could be rejected and the initial charges reinstated. This happened in a case in Ada County last week involving a former Boise police officer.
According to Idaho’s criminal code, someone convicted of felony injury to a child is not required to register as a sex offender, as it is not on the list of charges stipulating a listing under the Sexual Offenders Registration Notification and Community Right-to-Know Act. Diaz said that makes her uneasy, given the initial charges filed in the case.
Diaz said that when she asked Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Taylor’s office why such a lesser deal was proffered, she was told the prosecutor handling the case didn’t want to put the 16-year-old girl through the rigors of being on the witness stand. The teen has endured mental health issues since she was sexually assaulted, her mother said.
Joe Decker, a spokesperson for Canyon County, told the Statesman in an email that prosecutors “will be making their comments on the case at the sentencing hearing.” That is scheduled to take place Monday, exactly two years after Diaz received the phone call.
Diaz said she understands the prosecution’s concern regarding her daughter having to testify at trial, but she cannot understand why the plea deal includes just one lesser charge. Diaz also voiced her frustration that it took well over a year for charges to be filed, and she alleged that her family — they live in California — endured numerous threats from Perez before his arrest.
Diaz said her goal would be to have the case go to trial, because she thinks the evidence would be strong enough to sustain the more severe charges. Her daughter would be able to testify in court if needed, she said.
“I think if given the opportunity, we could stand trial, and we could survive it, and he would be able to be charged properly and the community wouldn’t have a pedophile walking on the streets,” Diaz said. “That would be my dream right there, if we could at least take it to trial.”
Seated alongside her, Diaz’s daughter said prosecutors don’t know Perez like she does, and have no idea how manipulative he can be.
Perez is a convicted felon, having spent time in prison in New Mexico on a 2007 conviction of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
“I don’t want to worry about him, because he knows where we live. I don’t want to worry about him coming to our house or coming to wherever I live when I’m older because he gets out so soon,” the girl said. “So I just — I want him to be punished the right way, charged the right way.”
Finding support in the Boise area
The Women’s and Children’s Alliance in Boise is available at 208-343-7025 for victims of domestic violence or online at wcaboise.org.
Advocates Against Family Violence in Canyon County is available at 208-459-4779 for anyone in need of help or shelter in an abusive relationship. Information is available at aafvhope.org.
The Faces of Hope Victim Center is available for victims in need of emergency services at 417 S. 6th St. in Boise. Victims should call 911 in emergencies or call 208-577-4400 on weekdays during business hours. Faces of Hope provides free medical care and forensic examinations for victims, as well as assistance with filing police reports and mental health care after an assault.
Anyone in need of help or who believes they may be in a violent relationship is encouraged to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or online at www.thehotline.org.