An Idaho Falls man who admitted to molesting two teenage girls was sentenced to prison Monday.
District Judge Dane Watkins Jr. ordered Evan Mercado, 20, to serve a minimum of 18 months in prison and up to 15 years. Mercado was given credit for the six months he has already served.
Mercado was arrested in April after he admitted to raping both victims multiple times. According to court records, Mercado was a minor when he committed the sexual assaults. Mercado told police the sex abuse ended after another child witnessed one of the sexual assaults, and he stopped her from telling anyone.
Mercado pleaded guilty to two charges of lewd conduct with a minor under 16.
During the sentencing, Bonneville County Assistant Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tanner Crowther recommended a prison sentence over retained jurisdiction.
Crowther said Mercado's own age was a mitigating factor, but he also cited a presentence investigation that found Mercado expressed little remorse.
"If he were not a juvenile at the time these offenses occurred, our view would be different, our recommendation would be different, and I suspect the court would treat him differently," Crowther said.
Public Defender Rocky Wixom agreed Mercado's age was a factor in considering a sentence. He asked Watkins to consider retained jurisdiction.
Wixom cited the presentence investigation that presented 19 previous cases similar to Mercado's and pointed out that 11 of them ended with the defendant being placed on a rider program.
Wixom said Mercado's early childhood was spent in a household where he witnessed physical and sexual abuse.
"He came from that background, and here we are with this behavior," Wixom said.
The defense attorney also cited the presentence investigation that found Mercado did not show signs of being a sexual predator and instead was "opportunistic" in his sexual abuse.
The attorneys disagreed on how the Bonneville County Public Defender's Office handled the psychosexual evaluation. The sentencing, which was scheduled for Monday morning, had to be delayed to the afternoon because Watkins was never presented with the report and needed time to review it.
Crowther expressed frustration that the evaluation was also not given to the presentence investigator, who chose not to recommend a sentence due to its absence. He called to move a "defense tactic" by the public defender's office.
Wixom said he had been told by Bonneville County Chief Deputy John Dewey that the Bonneville County Prosecutor's Office had no opinion on how the public defender's office handled the psychosexual evaluation. Wixom said both the judge and the state had the evaluation. Crowther said, however, that his concerns are held by the prosecutor's office, not just himself.
On Sept. 30 the sentencing of Scott Wilson, who is pleading guilty to charges of possession of child sexually exploitative material, was delayed after the Bonneville County Public Defender's Office failed to forward a copy of Wilson's psychosexual evaluation to the judge.
Watkins considered delaying the sentencing, but Crowther said the victims wanted to move forward with sentencing.
Mercado apologized to the victims and the courts for his crimes, saying he wanted to take responsibility.
"I didn't realize how much damage I had caused by my actions," Mercado said.
Watkins was pleased to hear Mercado acknowledge the harm he caused. He agreed with Crowther, however, that a prison sentence was warranted, and that it would have been longer if Mercado had committed the crimes as an adult.
Mercado was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine. He will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release.