A Carson City judge refused to reduce charges against three Carson City adults accused of confining and starving two children.
Regina Rios, 33, her mother Esther Rios, 56, and Regina's husband, Tomas Granados, 33, are each charged with two counts of child abuse, two counts of neglect and two counts of false imprisonment for allegedly locking Regina Rios' daughter and son in the bathroom for five years. A trial is set for Sept. 19.
Regina Rios' court-appointed defense attorney, Tom Susich, requested the judge merge two counts of child abuse and two counts of neglect because the charges put the defendants at risk for double jeopardy.
He argued to charge both neglect and abuse as separate crimes when the basis for each is the same means his client could potentially be sentenced and convicted of the same crime twice.
But District Attorney Noel Waters said one charge is based on abuse caused by the defendants and the other charge is based on what the defendants permitted the children to endure.
District Judge Bill Maddox refused to reduce the charges, saying it would be up to the jury to decide what Regina Rios, Esther Rios and Tomas Granados were guilty of. He did note, however, if the jury came back with guilty on all charges, he would not sentence each charge separately to avoid an appearance of double jeopardy.
"I don't believe I can sentence them more than once," he said.
The Rios women and Granados were arrested Jan. 19, 2006, after Regina Rios' 16-year-old daughter allegedly escaped from the Como Street apartment bathroom in which she and her 12-year-old brother had been held. The girl weighed 41 pounds and the boy weighed 31 when they were discovered by deputies. The two have since gained weight and are being cared for by a foster family. The state has taken over custody of three other healthy children found in the home.
Susich also unsuccessfully argued to have the judge dismiss the charge of false imprisonment.
"You can't charge them with false imprisonment and abuse when the confinement for which they are charged is the abuse," Susich said. He said the law was put into effect to punish hostage takers and does not apply to this case because a parent has "sufficient legal authority to detain a child."
But Maddox agreed with Waters, who argued false imprisonment to avoid prosecution went far beyond a parent's authority.
"The state contends that it is untenable for the defendant to claim the prolonged confinement of her children was based upon "sufficient legal authority that she could not have known her conduct was criminal," Waters wrote in his opposition to the motion.
Each of the defendants could be sentenced to up to 45 years in prison if convicted.
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