By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer
A prison sentence of longer than 8 1/2 to 20 years was warranted for Armando Cruz, his sentencing judge said Tuesday.
However, since Cruz was already sentenced to 35 years in federal prison, Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert G. Yeatts went along with the recommended sentence offered by prosecutors and the defense.
“If you had not had the federal sentence, I would not have approved the plea in this matter,” said Yeatts, referring to Cruz’s plea to attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse of an 11- or 12-year-old girl.
Prosecutors could have asked for a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, but decided not to in return for the plea. The sentence of 8 1/2 to 20 years was above the guidelines range of a minimum 5 to 6 1/2 years.
Yeatts stacked the sentences so Cruz, formerly of Brandy Springs Apartments, Mercer, will serve his state sentence after he completes the federal sentence on two counts of producing child pornography.
“In your case, it’s a relief to know for the next 43è years our children are safe,” Yeatts said.
Technically, Cruz could get out of federal prison four or five years early through a good-time program, but it’s also possible the state Board of Probation and Parole could make him serve all 20 years of his state sentence.
Given Cruz’s age, 45, he might never again see the sun without prison bars obscuring his view.
Yeatts said Cruz appears to have no feelings “at all” about what his crimes have done to his victims.
Cruz made no statement at his sentence hearing. However, he acknowledged to authorities that he is addicted to pornography. He started viewing adult pornography, eventually moving to bestiality and child pornography.
Cruz has never been treated for addiction and had no dealings with the criminal justice system before federal authorities investigating what turned out to be a nationwide child pornography network identified him.
Cruz’s victim reported having nightmares and flashbacks as a result of his abuse, and Yeatts said people like Cruz are the reason parents fear for the safety of their children.
“You are the nightmare,” Yeatts said.
Although Cruz was accused of drugging his victims and threatening to kill their parents if they told anyone about his activities, he denied both allegations Tuesday.
Cruz will have to register for life as a sexual offender under Megan’s Law, and Yeatts deemed him a sexually violent predator, making Cruz’s reporting and counseling requirements more stringent.
An associate of Cruz’s, Earl D. Warner, 55, of Mercer, has been charged by federal officials with making child porn. He has asked a judge to suppress statements he made to a state police investigator and an FBI agent, arguing that he was tricked into coming to the interview and was intimidated by officials during the interrogation.