Sentencing on child sex trafficking plea set for November 16, 2017
CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Maria Candelaria Losoya, 55, of Brownsville, Texas, co-defendant with former Michigan Humane Society president and Humane Society of the U.S. vice president for investigations David Wills, has pleaded guilty to one federal count of trafficking a minor for sexual purposes, acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez announced on August 2, 2017.
The apparent plea bargain settlement of the case against Losoya hints that she is prepared to testify against Wills, should Wills elect to stand trial. This could significantly increase the likelihood that Wills will be convicted, and upon conviction, receive a maximum sentence.
Wills’ trial date is set for September 11, 2017, subject to possible postponements.
Assaults in multiple venues
“Losoya appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge B. Janice Ellington and admitted she was responsible for the continued sexual assault of her daughter which began in Brownsville in 2012,” reported Coastal Bend Chronicle editor John Morgan. “Later, she traveled with the victim so that the attacks could continue. She further admitted that she did so in exchange for money. Prosecutors say Wills paid Lasoya to have sex with her daughter over the course of several years,” starting when she was nine years old.
“These attacks were committed in several locations across the region, including Portland, Rockport, and Brownsville. State charges are still pending in San Patricio County against Wills,” Morgan summarized.
“Sentencing is set before U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos on November 16, 2017,” Morgan continued. “At that time, Losoya faces a minimum of 15 years and up to life in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. Upon completion of any prison term imposed, Losoya also faces a maximum of life on supervised release during which time the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children. Losoya will also be required to register as a sex offender.”
Added Morgan, “Losoya was permitted to remain on bond pending her sentencing hearing.”
Where is Wills?
Wills, 64, after arraignment on July 20, 2017, “was permitted release upon posting a $5 million bond,” U.S. district court spokesperson Angela Dodge told ANIMALS 24-7. But his whereabouts are unclear.
ANIMALS 24-7 was informed after Wills’ arraignment that since the prosecution appealed setting bond, Wills would remain in jail for at least another 14 days, pending the appeal hearing.
Wills had already reportedly been held in the Nueces County jail on state charges since November 2015 in lieu of posting bond of $1 million. One local TV newscast said Wills had bonded out in December 2015, but a February 2016 report said he remained in jail. ANIMALS 24-7 was told that Wills was still in jail when hit with the federal charges.
But on July 24, 2017, ANIMALS 24-7 received an anonymous e-mail saying only “he just bailed out.”
Court sources did not confirm the information.
What the new developments mean
As to what exactly LoSoya’s apparent plea bargain may mean, that the charges against Losoya and Wills were moved into federal court left their defense attorneys much less opportunity to avoid stiff sentences, upon conviction, than they would have had in Texas state courts.
Explains Dallas criminal defender and former prosecutor Clint Broden on the Broden & Mickelsen web site, “In state court in Texas, plea agreements almost always involve a plea to a certain sentence, whether it be a particular term of probation or a particular number of days or months in jail or prison. Like most contracts, each side knows what it is getting and what it is giving up when a defendant enters a plea agreement.
“Pleas and plea agreements in federal court are entirely different. Indeed, unless a defendant has a skilled and very persuasive lawyer, there is no ‘guaranteed’ sentence when a defendant pleads guilty in federal court. A defendant enters his or her guilty plea ‘blind’ without knowing what his or her ultimate sentence will be.
“This is because,” Broden continued, “sentences in federal court are determined by a defendant’s sentencing guidelines. These guidelines are based upon a myriad of factors. While a defendant’s attorney can give the defendant an estimate as to what their guideline sentence will be, there is no guarantee. A defendant ordinarily must plead guilty and then the sentencing is held a few months later.
“It is only after the plea is entered,” wrote Broden, “that the probation office does an initial calculation of the defendant’s sentencing guidelines.”
“Totality & seriousness”
Technically there is a chance LoSoya and Wills could each receive plea-bargained sentences lower than the federal sentencing guidelines, or that Wills, even if convicted at trial, could be sentenced to less than the minimum of 15 years and up to life in federal prison that the anti-trafficking law provides.
But according to the FindLaw web site, federal sentencing guidelines require that plea agreements should “honestly reflect the totality and seriousness of the defendant’s conduct,” and that any variance must be consistent with sentencing guideline provisions.
Says FindLaw, “The Justice Department’s official policy is to stipulate only to those facts that accurately represent the defendant’s conduct. Plea agreements require the approval of the assistant attorney general if counts are being dismissed.”