A 41-year-old member of the U.S. Army assigned to Fort Huachuca unexpectedly pleaded guilty last Friday, just four days before he was to stand trial in Cochise County Superior Court for the Dec. 3, 2019 sexual abuse of a minor.
Staff Sergeant Luis R. Burgos-Castro was in court Oct. 23 for a final pretrial hearing when his attorney announced to Presiding Judge James Conlogue that the defendant wished to admit to luring a minor for sexual exploitation, kidnapping, sexual abuse, fraudulent schemes, and attempted sexual assault involving the 17-year-old victim.
But unlike most non-trial resolutions, Burgos-Castro did not accept a plea deal. He simply pleaded guilty with no promises as to what sentence Conlogue will impose Nov. 30 on five felonies related to the sexual misconduct and a sixth felony for possession of cocaine.
The sentencing options available to the judge range from probation up to 18.5 years in state prison, or both. Burgos-Castro must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He remains in custody of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office until sentencing.
“The State was prepared to begin trial this week,” prosecutor Michael Powell told Arizona Daily Independent. “However, after consulting with his attorneys and considering the evidence that would have been presented at trial, the Defendant decided to plead guilty to all charges in the indictment. I am glad that justice can be served for the victim without her having to go through the trauma of a trial.”
On Tuesday, Conlogue used what would have been the first day of trial to hear from the victim and her father, who were not present in court for last week’s guilty pleas. Both spoke about the impact of the incident which started when Burgos-Castro showed up at the victim’s home on Dec. 3 to invite her to a last-minute surprise party for his own daughter.
The teen’s father, who like Burgos-Castro was active duty Army, drove his daughter to an off-base residence to attend the party. He told Conlogue he only allowed his daughter to go on such short notice because the request was made in person by another soldier.
Burgos-Castro even thanked the girl’s father for bringing her to the party, telling him how excited Burgos-Castro’s daughter would be that her friend was there, the father told the judge.
The victim, dresses in uniform, told Conlogue she knew immediately upon walking into the residence that there was no party and that her friend wasn’t there. But another man was there with Burgos-Castro, and both were much larger than her. That caused the teen to fear for her safety, as she had heard how easy it is to take women across the border, she told the judge.
“I thought it was my fault because I didn’t tell the guy to stop,” the tearful victim told the Conlogue. “But I didn’t speak up because I was so scared.”
Burgos-Castro came under investigation after the girl reported the sexual misconduct to her father. The case was assigned to Det. Joshua Nicola of the Sierra Vista Police Department because the incident occurred at a residence in the city limits.
Nicola arrested Burgos-Castro on Dec. 20 and a Cochise County grand jury issued an indictment in early January. The teen told Conlogue that it has been difficult to deal with her emotions because Burgos-Castro pleaded not guilty, which implied she was lying about the incident.
The stress impacted her readiness for moving forward with an Army career, she said. There were also issues with her involvement in activities at Fort Huachuca which could bring her into contact with Burgos-Castro before his arrest and after he posted bail a short while later to be released from jail pending trial.
Court records show Powell obtained a court order in June sending Burgos-Castro back to jail due to alleged violations of his conditions of release.
The girl also told Conlogue that at times she is uncomfortable wearing dresses or other clothing which highlights her figure, and she still gets distressed when the dads of her friends are around.
“There’s always a mixture of anger and of being depressed,” she said. “It’s hard to trust other males.” She asked Conlogue to impose “at least a two-digit” prison term for Burgos-Castro, and she hopes his fellow inmates give him “the worst time” when they learn why he’s there.
The victim’s father described how the incident has affected their Army family. He also noted the damages has been compounded by the fact his daughter were harmed by someone in the Army.
“This guy destroyed any trust I had in others,” the father said, noting he has become hyper-protective of a younger daughter as a result. “I never thought that this could be so painful.”
After listening to their comments, Conlogue took a moment to address the father, who has stood beside his daughter and advocated for her throughout the case.
“You are showing your daughter what a real man is like,” the judge said.