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'Sexting' suspect waives hearing

Posted: Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Courier staff writer

SAN LUIS — A Costilla County man accused of sending sexually explicit text messages to an underage girl waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Monday in consideration of a plea offer.

Prosecutors originally charged Clarence Vigil with Internet sexual exploitation of a child and Internet luring of a child. But they’ve since agreed to drop both Class 4 felony charges if the 55-year-old man pleads guilty to “contributing to the delinquency of a minor with a sexual factual basis.”

The offer will remain open for 60 days after Vigil’s first appearance in district court on July 11.

Vigil was arrested on Feb. 3, after a San Luis man reported that his 11-year-old daughter had been using her iPod to communicate with the suspect.

A Costilla County Sheriff’s corporal who examined the device reported that he found several inappropriate text messages on it.

Cpl. Mico Fernandez also obtained a written statement from the girl, who alleged that Vigil sent her several explicit text messages, and asked her to send him photos of herself. The girl claimed that she responded by sending Vigil two intimate pictures.

However, when Fernandez questioned Vigil, the suspect denied that he had any communication whatsoever with the girl.

Vigil gave Fernandez his consent to inspect his phone, and the corporal did not find any potentially incriminating messages when he examined it at that time. Nor did he find any nude pictures of the girl, although Fernandez reported that he discovered one photo in which she appeared fully clothed alongside another person.

Vigil was initially booked into the Costilla County Jail, but he was released once he posted bail.

However, both Vigil and his son Leon were subsequently arrested for tampering with evidence, after they allegedly refused to turn Clarence Vigil’s phone over to authorities.

Fernandez repeatedly told both men that he had a court order to seize the device.

But Leon Vigil, who claimed that he was in possession of his father’s phone while attending a funeral in Texas, allegedly declined to surrender it.

“He said he would not give me the phone because he had a lawyer and he did not think he needed to give it to me,” Fernandez reported.

The corporal warned Leon Vigil that he or his father would be charged with a felony offense if they attempted to hide the device, or tamper with it.

Leon Vigil said he would do what he could, but he seemed to be “rather indifferent” to Fernandez’s statements, the corporal reported.

A deadline to submit the phone came and went, and the next time that Fernandez spoke directly with Clarence Vigil, the defendant handed him an attorney’s card.

The corporal reported that he again reminded both men of the court’s order, and gave them another chance to release the phone.

When they allegedly refused to do so, he advised them that they were under arrest, and then turned them over to the detention center’s staff.

At that point, Leon Vigil began to speak with Fernandez about the charges. But the corporal declined to speak any further with him, since the defendant had invoked his right to remain silent.

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