Prosecutors Want Victim out of Court

WHEELING – Federal prosecutors aim to shield a mentally handicapped woman from testifying when two Mexican nationals convicted of taking her out of state and having sex with her are sentenced.

Jose Jesus Tapias Montes, 38, and Elmer Pina Ramirez, 44, each pleaded guilty April in U.S. District Court to a charge of aiding and abetting in the transportation of an individual in interstate commerce with intent to engage in illegal sexual activity.

Ramirez’s attorney, Robert McCoid, subpoenaed the victim to testify during sentencing. McCoid alleged the woman offered conflicting accounts of her interactions with Ramirez and Montes. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McWilliams Jr. this week moved to quash that subpoena and keep the victim out of the courtroom.

“The United States believes that an in-court appearance by the victim, where she has to directly face the defendants, will have a deleterious effect on her emotional state,” McWilliams’ motion states. It notes the victim’s mother has not informed the woman about the subpoena, fearing the effect it will have on her.

At a 10 a.m. hearing today, Judge Frederick P. Stamp Jr. will hear the prosecution’s objections to parts of the federal probation officer’s pre-sentence investigation report. It is unclear what else may happen at the hearing. Stamp could sentence Ramirez and Montes, or he could reject the plea agreement, causing the case to proceed to trial.

According to FBI documents, Montes and Ramirez took the then-19-year-old woman from outside her home in Elm Grove on July 7, 2012, and drove her to a residence in Washington, Pa., where they repeatedly had sex with her. They returned her to Wheeling and dropped her off on a street near her home days later.

Montes and Ramirez were working as roofers in Washington, Pa. Both lived in the country illegally and will be deported after completing their prison terms.

A psychologist who interviewed the victim said the woman is below the 1 percentile level in her ability to function, meaning 99 percent of people of a similar age have a higher mental capacity than she has.