Eight Felony Charges in Rape Case

Defendant said he and alleged victim, 14, had planned a life together

     The man charged with rape for allegedly having sex with a 14-year-old girl in Montauk was indicted by a grand jury seated in the Suffolk County Criminal Court building in Riverside Friday on eight felony counts, four counts of rape and four counts of committing a criminal sexual act with a child under 15 years of age.

     The eight counts corresponded to the four sexual encounters Juan Jose Zhingri-Deleg, 27, described to East Hampton Town Detective Tina Giles on Monday, after he was brought in for questioning -- two counts apiece for each alleged event, according to the police. The police had been alerted by a close relative of the victim, who called after an alleged sexual encounter between the defendant and the victim on Feb. 22. The mother and the grandfather, with whom the 14-year-old lived, had left the two alone for about an hour that evening while they went to church.

     According to a statement on file at the East Hampton Town Justice Court, Mr. Zhingri-Deleg reportedly told Detective Giles in Spanish: “We had told them that we did not want to go to church, and they trusted us to be good, and do nothing wrong.” The defendant does not speak English. Detective Giles speaks both languages.

     Mr. Zhingri-Deleg described to the detective four sexual encounters he had with the girl, the first when she was 13, according to the statement. He was contacted on Monday by the victim’s mother, who told him Detective Giles wanted to speak with him. “I made contact with Detective Giles today because I wanted to be honest and tell her about my relationship. I am in love with [the victim] and do not want to lose her. I recognize that she is only 14 years old, but we get along very well together.”

     Before making his statement to the detective, Mr. Zhingri-Deleg waived his Miranda rights. Afterward, he was placed under arrest, charged with a single count of rape, as well as a misdemeanor count of endangering the welfare of a child.

     He was arraigned late Tuesday morning in front of East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky, who agreed with District Attorney Thomas J. Spota’s office that $100,000 was an appropriate bail level, considering Mr. Zhingri-Deleg’s lack of ties to the community. Mr. Zhingri-Deleg, who is from Cuenca, Ecuador, has been in East Hampton since he was 17. He has no family here, but has a brother in New Jersey. Mr. Zhingri-Deleg was back in East Hampton Justice Court on Thursday.

     The grand jury, taking into account the full scope of the apparent confession, added the seven felony charges to the docket on Friday.

     Police and the court have removed the alleged victim’s name, as well as those of her relatives, from all documents.

     Nine people showed up in East Hampton Justice Court on Thursday, most of whom appeared to be friends of the defendant. They had banded together and hired an attorney, Robert J. Coyle, to defend him. Mr. Coyle is one of the few local attorneys able to converse in Spanish.

     He said on Thursday that he was hoping to negotiate with Mr. Spota’s office over the disposition of the case. Mr. Coyle was hoping for an eventual return to Ecuador for Mr. Zhingri-Deleg, a sentiment shared by one of the friends in the courthouse who had hired Mr. Coyle. The man declined to give his name, but described Mr. Zhingri-Deleg as a hard-working, honest man. Another member of the group, who did not give her name, said the mother wanted Mr. Zhingri-Deleg released from custody.

     The mother of the girl in question had been at the arraignment on Tuesday with her daughter, who was sobbing after seeing the defendant led out of the building in handcuffs. She was in the courthouse Thursday, as well. Speaking to the court’s translator, Ana Kestler, she said that she was there because Detective Giles had asked her to be there, but she sat with Mr. Zhingri-Deleg’s supporters, and spoke with them quietly, throughout.

     Mr. Coyle waived Mr. Zhingri-Deleg’s right to be released within 120 hours of arrest if not indicted on the single felony charge he had been arrested for.

     However, Mr. Spota’s office, aware of the ticking clock for either an indictment or a release of the defendant, pressed forward Friday, presenting the possible charges to the grand jury. The result was the eight felony charges Mr. Zhingri-Deleg is now facing. Taken together, the charges could result in significant time in state prison.

     The case has been assigned Suffolk County Criminal Court Justice Barbara R. Kahn in Riverside. Justice Kahn’s court handles major sex crime cases on the East End. Mr. Zhingri-Deleg will be arraigned on the eight felony charges in front of Justice Kahn on Friday.