Mimesis Law
27 January 2022

Ricardo Lugo And The Thin Line between Victim And Defendant

Oct. 7, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — It’s pretty obviously illegal to meet a minor online, drive hundreds of miles to pick him up, and then drive him back to your home, where you enroll him in school as a twelve-year-old so you can use him to find more victims. It’s clear who the victim is in that scenario, who’s the pawn and who’s the real bad guy. Well, except for in Texas, apparently:

A now-18-year-old man found out his punishment Monday for his role in a child abuse scheme.

Ricardo Lugo pretended to be a 12-year-old 6th grader and teamed up with a 28-year-old to sexually abuse kids.

As is often the case with reporting on criminal justice matters, that snippet contains some interesting, and telling, word choices. While Lugo might be an adult now, he wasn’t when a decade-older pedophile transported him across Texas to use as bait. Why would the article start with his current age rather than his age at the time of the crime? The fact he was sixteen is buried later in the article, and only as an intro to a description of how he initiated the awful things he helped do:

Lugo was 16 when he registered in school and sat alongside other 6th graders at Hurst Hills Elementary School.

No less telling is the use of the phrase “teamed up” to describe what Lugo did. It appears that a sixteen-year-old can’t even legally consent to sex in Texas, yet the article somehow paints Lugo as part of a conspiracy. He isn’t old enough to have sex in the first place, but he’s old enough to “team up” with an older pedophile who thoroughly groomed him for the purposes of committing crimes against other minors? The defense at least made the obvious argument:

“I perceive him as someone who is easily manipulated,” said Fallis. “That is part of what happened with his involvement with Mr. Wesson over the internet and phone calls. There was manipulation, there was grooming done.”

The situation is illustrative of the fact that the system is filled with would-be defendants. Had Lugo been an undercover cop posing as a minor, it would’ve been a clear-cut story of a dangerous sex offender nabbed by clever authorities. Had Lugo been a little younger, a little more obviously victimized, or a little more sympathetic in some other compelling way, he might’ve been a star witness for the state. He wasn’t, though, and he faced charges for things he was groomed to do by a pedophile and began doing when he was a minor.

Still, the state played hardball, and Lugo took his chances and lost:

The state had offered an 18-year sentence for the indecency with a child charge, but Lugo refused it.

His attorney gambled for probation, but the judge gave him the maximum sentence.

Lugo will have to serve at least half his 20-year sentence before he’s eligible for probation.

Assuming that the article is accurate, always a big if given the fact it involves the justice system, an 18-year offer where there’s a 20-year maximum is what some people call a “trial offer.” When all you have to lose is two years and yet you stand to save yourself eighteen, who wouldn’t take the gamble? An offer like that guarantees a trial. It also provides a bit of a glimpse into the mind of the prosecutor:

His attorney says after 28-year-old Randy Wesson met Lugo online, he brought him to Fort Worth, passed him off as his 12-year-old son and then put him in school to find child victims for Wesson.

The prosecutor argued that Lugo was looking for victims for himself.

When they charge someone like Lugo, he’s the devil. Age notwithstanding, he’s a predator who needs to go away. Had they not charged Lugo, on the other hand, they would’ve moved to preclude the older man from presenting all sorts of things Lugo did as part of his defense. They would’ve moaned about how the strategy of smearing Lugo was just a slimy example of victim blaming.

Prosecutors’ commitment to putting on the blinders after making an initial charging decision would almost command respect if it wasn’t so arbitrary much of the time. Given the circumstances, however, it’s hardly arbitrary in Lugo’s case.

Imagine how terrified the people of tiny little Hurst, Texas must have been to learn that a dangerous pedophile lived among them, preying on their children. Then imagine how much worse it was knowing that the pedophile had a sidekick, a mole who attended school in grades where he was much older than the other students. Forget about the idea of a teenager preyed on by a bad guy. What parent wouldn’t freak out about an older boy preying on their kids at the direction of pervert? Try explaining to them that the person who lured their children, or children they know, is just another victim.

This excerpt from the article suggests the defense might not have helped things:

Forensic psychologist Emily Fallis testified for the defense that Lugo is a pedophile who liked to wear diapers.

She said Lugo would be less of a risk to the community with sex offender therapy in a mental health facility than by going to prison.

The “my client is a pedophile who liked to wear diapers” defense hasn’t caught on where I practice, apparently, and I hope it doesn’t. I hope it’s just the article, as I’m not totally sure how that helps to call into question Lugo’s guilt or reduce his punishment at all. Although proposing treatment in a mental health facility may be a decent strategy, it can be a dangerous thing. Beneath it runs a strong undercurrent suggesting Lugo is not fit to be part of the community. It seems like an unusual argument when the defense is asking for probation.

If Lugo gets out as early as he possibly can, he will have spent over a third of his life in prison. He will never have been free as an adult, and his last years of childhood would’ve been lived under the control of a twisted serial abuser of him and other children. It’s a sad situation that shows how easy it is to move the line between victim and co-defendant based on the scariness of the crime.

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