Gaston County man to be deported after committing sex act on 15-year-old

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Leonel Jardines Martell, who grew up in Gaston County, will be deported for committing a sex act on a minor.

Martell, 23, pleaded guilty to statutory rape on Friday, according to the Gaston Gazette. He was sentenced to a minimum of 10 months in prison, but had already spent more than a year in jail while awaiting his trial.

Martell was taken into custody by deputies and handed over to immigration officials.

Defense attorney Kelly Morris already advised his client that deportation was probably unavoidable.

Martell graduated from North Gaston High School and has been living in the county for 19 years,

According to reports by the Gazette, Martell celebrated his 21st birthday at a New Year's Eve party with his friends on Dec. 31, 2014. A 15-year-old attended the party with a friend.

The girl and her friend got separated, and the girl was later found bleeding and distraught. She reported that Martell performed a sex act on her during an encounter that Martell later told investigators was consensual.

Gaston County Assistant District Attorney Debbie Gulledge said a 15-year-old cannot legally consent to sex.

After pleading guilty, Martell apologized to his family, her family and the court.

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