Local News

Harnett Woman Gets Plea Deal in Teen Sex Case

Posted February 1, 2008 5:24 p.m. EST
Updated February 2, 2008 7:07 a.m. EST

— A Harnett County woman has been placed on probation after pleading guilty to having sexual encounters with two teenage boys.

Crystal Rodriguez, 26, initially was charged with three counts of statutory rape and faced up to 57 years in prison. She reached a plea deal with prosecutors this week, however, and pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual battery, a misdemeanor.

Rodriguez was accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy and improperly touching his 13-year-old brother. The incidents occurred in 2006 at her home, authorities said.

Superior Court Judge Frank Lanier said he accepted the deal based on the recommendations of the Harnett County District Attorney's office. Prosecutors were acting at the request of the victims and their family, who wanted Rodriguez to get mental health treatment and not jail time.

"The reason this plea was given was because the victims did not want Mrs. Rodriguez to go to jail. The victims were adamant that leniency be shown to Mrs. Rodriguez," defense attorney Jason Wunsch said.

Harnett County Assistant District Attorney Teresa Postell, the prosecutor who handled the case, declined to comment.

Rodriguez will spend at least two years on supervised probation, during which she must complete 48 hours of community service and undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if she should enroll the state's sex offender program, which would provide counseling.

She also must register as a sex offender and will be prohibited from any unsupervised contact with anyone under age 16, except for her own children.

Wunsch said he doubted Rodriguez's gender played a role in the plea deal. He noted she had no prior criminal record and is married with two small children.

"This is the first kind of trouble that she's ever faced with the law. I think, therefore, that the sentence is appropriate and adequate," Wunsch said.

"I know that the state's foremost priority was the victims in this case, seeing that they got healing, and I know that the state spent an extensive amount of time talking to the family and that this is what they wanted," he said.

Rodriguez issued an apology to the boys and their family.

"I would like to say that I'm sorry for everything that has happened," she said. "All I really want is to go ahead and start the healing process, and hopefully they'll be able to move on with their lives, and I can move on living my life."

Rodriguez said her family has been very supportive, and she thanked prosecutors for offering a plea deal.

"If it weren't for the state of North Carolina, I wouldn't be here with my children right now," she said.