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Traffic stop leads to discovery of rape warrant

YOUNGSTOWN — Sergio F. Gonzalez III, 23, who was indicted more than two years ago on rape charges that could produce a life prison sentence, has been in the Mahoning County jail since he was picked up June 12 during a traffic stop in Canfield.

The case is unusual in that Gonzalez was 17 at the time he allegedly committed two rapes against a child who was about 11 years old, and Gonzalez was indicted by the adult-level common pleas court only after the 7th District Court of Appeals ordered the case bound over to adult court.

Judge Theresa Dellick of Mahoning County Juvenile Court initially declined to transfer the case to adult court in June 2021. She stated Gonzalez was amenable to rehabilitation in the juvenile court system.

She also stated that the timing of the filing of the rape charges against Gonzalez just before he turned 20 “occurred to the detriment of” Gonzalez and the alleged victim. She stated that this happened “due to no action of (Gonzalez’s) own.”

But the prosecutor’s office appealed June 18, 2021, arguing that because the suspect would be turning 21 within two months of Dellick’s ruling, that left only two months for the juvenile court and staff at the Martin P. Joyce Juvenile Justice Center to rehabilitate Gonzalez before he would be released.

The April 2022 appeals court ruling, written by judges David D’Apolito, Gene Donofrio and Carol Ann Robb, found that “two months provides insufficient time to rehabilitate (Gonzalez).”

The ruling stated that “the (judge) observed that the psychological report did not disclose any ‘deviant behavior.’ The juvenile court’s reliance on the foregoing observation completely ignores the alleged crimes, despite the juvenile court’s finding that probable cause (of the suspect committing the crimes) exists based on” the alleged victim’s testimony at a hearing.

The appeals court ruling ordered Dellick to transfer the case to adult court, which she did in an April 4, 2022, judgment entry, which cited the appeals ruling. Gonzalez was indicted the following month, but he could not be located until Canfield police arrested him after observing a minor traffic violation June 12. He has an address on South Garland Avenue. He had a Livingston Street address when he was indicted in 2022.

A Canfield police report states that an officer observed a black Infiniti traveling north on North Broad Street with a loud, defective exhaust.

It also appeared that there was no registration on the back of the vehicle, the report states.

After the officer made the stop, he observed a temporary registration on the back window. He spoke to Gonzalez, who said he recently purchased the vehicle. His identification indicated he was Sergio F. Gonzalez III.

The officer checked Gonzalez through its law enforcement database and saw that Gonzalez was wanted on rape charges out of the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office and had a warrant out of Campbell issued in May 2022 for failing to appear in court on misdemeanor charges.

Gonzalez was then placed into custody and taken to the Mahoning County jail, where he has remained since then.

He was arraigned in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court the next day, and bond was set at $250,000.

Canfield police issued a warning to Gonzalez for defective exhaust and obstructed registration.

Gonzalez’s first pretrial in common pleas court will be 11 a.m. Monday before Judge John M. Durkin.

The April 2022 appeals court ruling stated that Gonzalez was accused of two counts of rape involving a child younger than 13. The rapes were alleged to have occurred in late 2017 and early 2018, when Gonzalez was 17.

The alleged victim was 11 and under the influence of marijuana the first time the crimes are alleged to have occurred, the ruling states. The suspect is alleged to have provided the marijuana.

The alleged victim more than a year later told a school counselor in September 2019, and the charges were filed in August 2020, just before the suspect’s 20th birthday. The Youngstown Police Department’s Family Investigative Service Unit investigated the case.

Have an interesting story? Contact Ed Runyan by email at erunyan@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.

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