Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Winston Scates is the breadwinner for his family.
The 64-year-old also molested one of them – his granddaughter. Prosecutors say he did the same thing to his daughter, the girl’s mother, when she was young.
But since Scates is the primary source of income for his family, and agreed to pay for his granddaughter’s counseling and college tuition, a state district judge sentenced him to supervised probation instead of prison.
Thirteenth Judicial District Judge Louis McDonald ordered Scates to serve at least five years of probation, register as a sex offender, receive sex offender treatment and pay restitution to – and not have “unwanted” contact with – his granddaughter.
“I’m torn between punishing the person who did something that’s clearly illegal – he knows it’s wrong, but he did it anyway – and what that does to the remainder of the family,” McDonald said before his ruling. “It’s my opinion that sending him to the Department of Corrections for four years is not what’s best for the victim in this situation.”
McDonald also ruled that payment of his granddaughter’s tuition, counseling and living expenses could be considered part of Scates’ restitution, but he must provide proof along the way.
“If you do not provide restitution – as I’ve outlined – I would consider that a violation of conditions,” he said.
District Attorney Lemuel Martinez, who has held his position since 2000, called the restitution ruling a first for him.
“This is something that we’ve never heard of before,” Martinez said. “Costs and fees for probation will be waived if he pays counseling, living expenses, tuition, other things for the victim.”
Scates pleaded guilty in June to criminal sexual contact of a minor under age 13 in the 2014 sexual assault of his granddaughter.
Throughout the investigation and hearings, it was alleged that Scates had also abused his daughter, the girl’s mother, in the past.
The allegations against Scates surfaced during the police investigation into the death of 6-year-old Ariana Romeo, who was found raped and killed inside the garage of Scates’ Rio Rancho home in August 2018.
Leland Hust, a 22-year-old who was living in the home, has since been charged in her murder.
During Thursday’s hearing, prosecutor Jeres Rael argued that the office of probation and parole asked for four years of prison for Scates, noting that he would get treatment “either way” and that “some form of punishment” was needed.
“Based on the facts before the court, your honor, it is clear that the defendant has done this before,” Rael said. “He did this to his daughter; he did this to his granddaughter; there have been other investigations into him.”
Defense attorney Liane Kerr said Scates should be given probation because he had no serious criminal record, he was forthcoming with detectives about the incident, and his own daughter – another victim – asked for her father be given probation.
“She is not suggesting to the court that her dad is the most perfect and flawless individual, but she feels through therapy and time, her father had more to offer his family,” Kerr siad.
During the hearing, his daughter, Rachel Scates, said she is disabled and unable to support her daughter.
“Without his support, my mom loses her home, my daughter loses most of her support, and I don’t know what I would do,” she said. “That’s the gist of it.”
McDonald expressed concerns that Scates wouldn’t receive sex offender treatment in prison, that the state’s argument was based on punishment and not rehabilitation and the victim should be the one to be most concerned about.
“The question is, do I punish Mr. Scates? And he deserves it, no question,” he said. “But I have also heard testimony and statements from the family … that sending him to the penitentiary would also not only punish him but his family because it sounds like he is the main breadwinner for a lot of people, including the victim.”