Child sex predator sentenced to 8 years in prison
BRECKENRIDGE — Cesar Astorga-Moreno, 54, was sentenced to eight years in prison on a charge of sexual exploitation of a child during a hearing Thursday morning at the Summit County Justice Center.
Astorga-Moreno appeared in custody in front of District Judge Karen Romeo for his sentencing hearing Thursday, with the family and friends of the victim looking on from the pews in the back of the courtroom. Despite pleas from the defense for a probationary sentence, Romeo called Astorga-Moreno’s crime “too egregious” to avoid prison time.
Astorga-Moreno’s case began to come to light in 2015, when a Summit School District employee informed a school resource officer that a student might have been sexually assaulted years earlier in 2012. Later in 2015, the victim in the case agreed to participate in a forensic interview and told detectives that Astorga-Moreno sexually assaulted them on multiple occasions. The child also told police that Astorga-Moreno had made violent threats against members of their family to stop them from telling anyone, according to court records.
Police reached out to Astorga-Moreno through his employer in hopes of setting up an interview in January 2016. He initially agreed to speak with officers but never arrived for the meeting and stopped answering his phone, according to records. Detectives later discovered that Astorga-Moreno had stopped going to work and determined that he fled the area once he learned about the allegations against him.
The Summit Combined Courts issued an arrest warrant for Astorga-Moreno in October 2016 on charges of felony sexual assault on a child, though the case wouldn’t move forward until June 2019, when he was detained and extradited from Milton, Florida.
In December, Astorga-Moreno accepted a plea agreement to an added charge of sexual exploitation of a child, and the sexual assault charges were dropped.
During the sentencing hearing Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Jake Lilly pushed the court for a hefty eight-year Department of Corrections sentence, calling the assaults on the child “horrific” and threats made against their family “disturbing.” Lilly slammed Astorga-Moreno for a lack of accountability, noting that he continues to deny responsibility for the crime despite his guilty plea and that the only reason the District Attorney’s Office chose not to pursue stronger charges in trial was to spare the victim from having to take the stand.
Astorga-Moreno’s attorney, Carolin Whippo, asked for a probationary sentence in the case citing a lack of previous criminal history and Astorga-Moreno’s willingness to accept a plea agreement in lieu of pushing the matter to trial. Whippo told the court that Astorga-Moreno has maintained his innocence in regard to the original allegations of sexual assault of a child throughout the proceedings and only accepted a plea agreement to avoid a potentially much more severe punishment.
Ultimately, Romeo agreed with Lilly, noting that Astorga-Moreno’s crime was much too severe for a simple probationary sentence. She sentenced Astorga-Moreno to eight years in prison along with five years of parole. He also received credit for 254 days served.
“The crime is so egregious in nature that a probation sentence would unduly depreciate the seriousness of it,” Romeo said about her decision.
Romeo continued to try and comfort the victim in the case, who attended the hearing.
“You’re very brave and courageous,” Romeo said. “This is not your fault. I want you to know that. This was not because of your actions. This was not your consequence. This is on the shoulders of Mr. Astorga-Moreno and the choices he made.”
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