Guatemalan man faces deportation after assaulting Niles woman

NILES — A Guatemalan native who sexually assaulted a woman at a hotel will spend time in prison and face deportation following the crime.

Raquel Garcia Gomez, 21, pleaded guilty to assault with the intent to commit sexual penetration on Oct. 25 — a 10-year felony. According to court records, Gomez’s address was most recently listed at as the 4800 block of Rodgers Road in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Raquel Gomez

Gomez was sentenced by Berrien County Judge Angela Pasula Tuesday to a minimum term of 14 months to a maximum term of 10 years in any penial institution. He will also face deportation after his sentence.

A translator was present during the court proceeding to help interpret the court proceedings for Gomez as he does not speak English.

The incident took place on Oct. 15 when Gomez met the victim outside of the Niles Quality Inn. When she returned inside, Gomez pulled the victim from the hallway into a hotel room and forced himself upon her sexually. Pasula said that a witness saw the confrontation in the hallway and told him to leave the victim alone.

“Clearly you were a predator in this case,” Pasula said. “You used physical force to rape the victim.”

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Cortney O’Malley Septoski told the court the victim had been traumatized by the event and now fears going out on her own.

“She says it has caused her serious concern about being alone and that it has caused her to alter her lifestyle because of this,” Septoski said. “This was clearly a very frightening incident for this victim.”

O’Malley asked that the court hold Gomez accountable for the crime and give him the maximum sentence. She also brought up Gomez’s immigration status.

“Clearly he has immigration consequences that will arise, but I don’t think that should impede how he is punished here,” Septoski said. “I don’t think that to say, ‘well he might be deported, so his sentence should be less’ is justice for this victim.”

The victim was present but did not address the court in person. She detailed the impact of the incident in a letter to the court.

Defense attorney Scott Sanford said that his client was doing some work in the area and had been drinking the night the incident occurred. Sanford said he also wanted the court to know that Gomez had been “operating under false pretenses” and thought the victim was interested in him sexually.   

Pasula said that alcohol consumption was not an excuse for what Gomez had done to the victim.

When it was his turn to speak, Gomez apologized for his actions through the translator.

“I am very sorry and I ask you to forgive me,” Gomez said. “I did not ever want to do that in my life. I am asking for forgiveness.”

Gomez has credit for 52 days served in jail. He was also ordered to register on the life time sex offender registry.

His status as an immigrant in the United States is unclear. The Berrien County prosecutor’s office did not answer this inquiry before deadline.

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