An illegal immigrant is expected to be deported after he admitted Friday to the statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl.
Leonel Jardines Martell, 23, has spent the majority of his life in Gaston County, North Carolina, just outside Charlotte. He graduated from North Gaston High School and remained in the area afterward. But on New Year's Eve 2014, his life — and the life of a 15-year-old girl — took a turn for the worse, WSOC-TV reported.
Martell was at a New Year's Eve party on Dec 31, 2014, where he was also celebrating his 21st birthday. The 15-year-old girl was attending the party with one of her friends but later went missing. According to the Gaston Gazette, partygoers were drinking and some were smoking marijuana.
The girl later told investigators that during the time she was separated from her friend, Martell performed unwelcome sex acts on her. She was found at the party bleeding and visibly distressed. Martell initially said the sexual acts were consensual.
Martell was charged Jan. 12, 2015, with assault on a female, according to Atlas Public Records.
Martell spent over a year behind bars while waiting for his trial to take place. Martell pleaded guilty Friday to statutory rape. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison. The Gaston Gazette reported that if Martell was a legal U.S. citizen, he likely would have been released for time served. However, he was instead handed over to immigration authorities and is expected to be deported.
A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to TheBlaze when asked when Martell will be deported.
The Gaston Gazette reported the 15-year-old victim's mother was at Martell's court hearing. Martell apologized to his own family, the girl's family and the court. He further acknowledged that deportation might help him turn his life around.
"I guess it'll be like a fresh start," Martell said, according to the newspaper.