Balderas, Jorge

Balderas

Jorge Balderas, the alleged ringleader of an effort to kidnap and torture a woman over three days, has entered a guilty plea.

The plea deal came after Balderas’ codefendants had all been sentenced, with two of them telling police Balderas was the one who took the lead in the crimes committed.

Balderas, 27, was arrested in June 2020 along with his then-girlfriend Sasha Martinez and his ex-girlfriend Laura Zamudio. Austin Alverado, who was dating Zamudio at the time, was arrested in August 2020.

The victim had previously dated Balderas, according to court records, and was living with him and the other defendants at the time of the kidnapping. Balderas reportedly tied the victim to a chair for three days, during which she was repeatedly beaten, had her face carved with a knife, was burned with metal tools and had a fire lit under her chair and around her legs while she was restrained and unable to move.

The victim said she escaped by freeing her hands from the rope used to tie her. She then got outside through a window and contacted police.

Several of Balderas’ co-defendants expressed fear of Balderas as they entered their own guilty pleas. During his sentencing Alverado’s attorney said Balderas regularly fired guns in the residence, and that Alverado was afraid Balderas would put a “hit” out on him.

A new charge of intimidating a witness was filed against Balderas in March after he reportedly threatened Martinez during a jail phone call. During the call, Balderas gave Martinez names of other inmates, which prosecutors argued were people he wanted her to attack. He also told her to withdraw her statement to police about his role in the kidnapping.

During Martinez’s sentencing, her attorney said Balderas regularly threatened to burn all of the women who lived with him.

“Mr. Jorge controls the women around him, and if they don’t do what he says, they get the chair,” Martinez’s defense attorney, Jason Gustaves, said.

Gustaves also said Martinez was afraid Balderas would try to hurt her family. In a video shown at the sentencing, Balderas expressed anger at Martinez’s mother for keeping him from “his” daughter. According to Gustaves, the child in question is Martinez’s daughter, but Balderas had tried to claim her as his own.

As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution agreed to dismiss the intimidating a witness charge. Two of the three charges of aggravated battery were dismissed as part of the agreement, and the charge of first-degree kidnapping was reduced to second-degree kidnapping.

Both parties agreed to recommend at least four years in prison for a determined sentence, and no more than nine years. Both sides are free to argue for any indeterminate period, or for retained jurisdiction or probation.

The agreement is non-binding, meaning the judge can give a sentence outside of those parameters without the sentence being justification for Balderas to withdraw from the plea agreement.

A sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 12 at 9 a.m. in Bonneville County Court. Second-degree kidnapping is punishable with up to 25 years in prison. Aggravated battery is punishable with up to 15 years in prison.

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