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Provo man admits to assaulting girlfriend

Published April 22, 2013 5:21 pm

Courts • Prosecutor says Juan Alberto Leiva hoped to avoid prosecution by marrying victim.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Juan Alberto Leiva and his new bride may have had more than love on their minds when they were married Friday.

A Utah County prosecutor said the two wed five days before Leiva's trial so that his wife would not have to testify against him for allegedly kidnapping and assaulting her last summer.

The couple were correct in that the wife legally did not have to testify against Leiva, but Deputy Utah County Attorney Craig Johnson said the woman had already testified to the alleged abuse at length during an October preliminary hearing ­— information that could be used at Leiva's trial, which was supposed to start Tuesday.

Instead, Leiva, 23, pleaded no contest Monday to aggravated assault, a second-degree felony. He was originally charged with four counts of first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping and assault, a class B misdemeanor.

Leiva faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced June 4.

He admitted in plea-agreement documents filed in 4th District Court to assaulting his then-ex-girlfriend on June 9, 2012.

According to court documents, the couple had broken up two days before. But upon hearing that the woman had gone on a date with another man, Leiva went to her Provo apartment and allegedly forced the Brigham Young University student into his car.

Leiva drove her into a nearby empty parking lot. He demanded to see her cellphone in order to look at texts and other information about her date, and when she refused, police say he ripped her clothes off, including her V-neck T-shirt, her bra and panties, according to court documents.

Police say Leiva then began driving, but the woman jumped out of the car near 900 East and 900 North. Leiva then caught up to her and tackled her, but she was able to escape and run back to her apartment after a bystander confronted Leiva, according to court documents. The dismissed aggravated kidnapping charges were related to other alleged episodes similar to what happened on June 9.

Johnson said the couple's marriage did not prompt prosecutors to offer the plea deal, which had previously been discussed. He said domestic-violence cases similar to Leiva's are investigated on the assumption that the victim will not be cooperative, so evidence such as the woman's ripped clothing and statements from bystanders were taken in preparation for trial.

"It's not going to matter," Johnson said. "Those sorts of ploys will not matter in the end."

jmiller@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jm_miller