Defendant decides in 11th hour to take plea agreement for rape charges

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CEDAR CITY – A Cedar City man charged with rape and forcible sex abuse decided just two days before his jury trial to accept a plea agreement previously offered by the prosecution.

Leonel Morales was in court Tuesday for a final status conference for his one-day jury trial scheduled Thursday but chose to take the plea arrangement that reduced the two original charges to a single count of attempted rape.

The court recessed for two hours to allow the state time to prepare the required documents for the arraignment that was now slated for the afternoon.

Morales signed the agreement admitting to the attempted sexual assault. He also pleaded guilty in court to the same charge.

The defendant is facing three years to life in the Utah State Prison. However, the charge does not carry a minimum mandatory sentence meaning the judge could give Morales more or less time depending on what he deems appropriate. Sentencing is scheduled March 28.

The 28-year-old has been in custody in the Iron County Correctional Facility on $50,000 bail since his arrest in October.

According to the charging documents filed in the case, the victim told Cedar City Police she had been drinking with some friends when she went in a bedroom and fell sleep. She said she woke to find Morales allegedly raping her.

The victim pushed her attacker off by grabbing Morales “by the neck” and pinning him in the corner of the bedroom before the homeowner came in the room and intervened.

Morales later admitted to the sexual assault during a police interview Oct. 18, court documents state. He was arrested 13 days later on Oct. 31.

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Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • comments February 15, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    “The victim pushed her attacker off by grabbing Morales “by the neck” and pinning him in the corner of the bedroom”

    Sounds like a powerful woman

    • mesaman February 15, 2017 at 8:49 pm

      Or one very weak male.

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