Jury trial has been scheduled for mid-May for a 21-year-old Hailey man who is accused of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old Carey girl.
Juan Jose Arteaga-Ponce, who investigators have described as an "illegal alien," was arraigned Monday morning in Blaine County 5th District Court on four felony counts. He is charged with two counts of rape and two counts of lewd conduct with a minor child under 16. The defendant was informed by Judge Robert J. Elgee that all four charges carry a maximum penalty in Idaho of up to life in prison.
A probable cause affidavit filed in the case by the Blaine County Sheriff's Office describes the sexual encounters as consensual rather than forcible.
Arteaga-Ponce, who communicated with the court through a Spanish-speaking interpreter, pleaded not guilty to all four charges. A jury trial, expected to last three days, was set to start on May 13, 2008.
The defendant remains incarcerated on $25,000 bond in the Blaine County Jail. He is represented by public defender Christopher Simms.
Arteaga-Ponce was arrested in November by sheriff's deputies on a complaint filed by a Carey family who alleged that the defendant had been involved sexually with the girl for about a month. Areaga-Ponce allegedly picked up the girl on three different occasions and drove her to remote areas where the alleged sexual encounters occurred.
His arrest followed a confrontation on Nov. 3 when family members of the girl found Arteaga-Ponce and the girl together in Carey and restrained him by taking his car keys until deputies arrived.