A 22-year-old Jackson man was sentenced to five years of probation for sexually abusing an underage girl repeatedly over several years, in what the judge called the most “moving” and “disturbing” case of its kind he’s ever seen.
In a plea agreement, Edwin Sanchez Machuca, who grew up in Teton County, pleaded no contest to the felony charge of third-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The conviction will not be entered on his record and he may not be required to register as a sex offender unless he violates his probation, court documents stated.
“I am not saying that anything that you might have done to this little girl is OK,” Judge Timothy Day said after announcing the sentence Tuesday. “You’re the one that has to live with this. Except she’s already been living with this, according to her ... since she was 5 years old.”
Court documents state that Machuca was 20 and the victim 13 in late 2017, when the last assault took place. Her parents reported the incident to police about a year later. In a forensic interview, the victim revealed that it was only the most recent in a string of assaults spanning five to seven years.
The first occurred between 2010 and 2012, records indicate, when the victim was 5 to 7 years old. Between then and 2017, another four incidents took place. The victim described three of those five as involving forced sexual contact.
The last assault is the only one described in court documents. Machuca and the victim were both at her birthday celebration when Machuca asked her to dance. She “reluctantly consented.”
Machuca positioned them on the outskirts of the dancing area, keeping the victim out of view of the other attendees, then grabbed her buttocks. Court documents state she “was scared and tried to stop dancing with Machuca,” who held her wrist to prevent her from leaving. He continued dancing with her and grabbed her buttocks several more times, records state. During an interview in January 2019, Machuca admitted he may have done this.
In a letter to the court, the victim described the psychological toll the abuse has taken on her over the years. Day said the letter was “indescribable,” adding that Machuca’s actions “affected her to her very core.”
Machuca gave a brief statement, saying, “I feel like I am of great value to this community. ... I believe I am a good person and can move past this.”
His attorney, Robert Horn, said, “I know from talking to people in the community that Edwin is thought of highly.”
Several of Machuca’s friends and coworkers submitted character references to the court, attesting his decency. One letter from a college friend describes how, when they believed a young woman had been “taken advantage of while intoxicated,” the two “did everything we could to help her receive justice.” When their fraternity refused to investigate, the letter states, “Edwin and I both immediately ceased our membership.”
Day ordered Machuca to write him a letter every six months throughout his probation with a detailed description of his progress in counseling, education and work. Machuca will not be allowed any contact with the victim or her family.
“I want to see every evidence I can,” Day said, “of you continuing to be what you describe yourself to be: a good person, of good value to our community. And I expect there will be no more victims from anything that you do.”