CROWN POINT | A man suspected of child molestation — who was twice released by Texas authorities before finally facing justice — pleaded guilty to a lesser battery charge Wednesday in Lake County court.
The mother of the victim expressed frustration the defendant will not have to register as a sex offender. The victim, now 15, said she was sexually groped by 74-year-old Enrique Marks Jr. in Highland about five years ago.
Marks' case made headlines in late 2012 when Brownsville, Texas, authorities arrested him on the 2008 Lake County warrant, only to release him when the Lake County court declined to extradite him, citing distance as a factor.
A similar apprehension and release occurred in 2009 under almost identical circumstances. Just as Lake County commissioners were discussing funding Marks' extradition from Texas out of the county budget, he turned himself in to Lake County authorities in December.
On Wednesday morning, prosecutors and Marks' defense attorney told Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell that Marks was prepared to plead guilty to felony battery in exchange for the dismissal of the child molestation charge and an 18-month sentence on probation.
The victim testified she favored the plea agreement and that she had moved beyond the incident.
Boswell accepted the plea and sentence, but the victim's mother expressed disgust after the hearing.
Prosecutors also noted during the hearing that while the victim's father favored the plea agreement, the girl's mother — who is divorced from the victim's father and shares joint custody of the girl — did not.
Following the hearing, the victim's father said he supports the parameters of the plea agreement but that he played no role in crafting the plea. He said that was all done between attorneys in the case in consultation with his daughter.
The girl's mother said the defendant should at least have to register as a sex offender because of what he did. With the battery conviction, he will not be required to do so.
The mother said she wasn't consulted about the plea agreement until Tuesday, the day before the hearing.
"They just opened the door for all sex offenders and child molesters, letting them know it's OK to hurt our children, and they'll get away with it," she said of the plea following the hearing.
She also criticized prosecutors in the case, claiming they told her the plea had been reached, in part, to spare her daughter from having to testify in the matter.
"They didn't want her to take the stand to say what he did to her, but they had her take the stand today to say she's OK with it now?" she said. "How does that make sense?"
Under the plea deal, Enrique Marks Jr. will serve his time on probation in Texas, where he lives.
Lake County prosecutors did not return calls placed by The Times seeking comment Wednesday.