BELLINGHAM - A Bellingham gang member was sentenced this week to 17 months in prison in a sexual assault case, after his 13-year-old victim gave conflicting accounts, according to prosecutors.
In charges filed in September against Rogelio "Travieso" Bazante, 22, prosecutors outlined the girl's original story in graphic detail. She told a detective she was stripped naked, forced to perform oral sex on a half-dozen men and Bazante tried to rape her at his apartment in the 1800 block of Alabama Street. She wasn't allowed to leave until Bazante let her go.
The girl reported the incidents to police a few days after they allegedly happened. But her account unraveled as the investigation went on.
"We heard a couple different stories (from the girl)," said Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey. "So we had concerns about the credibility of the victim."
Richey declined to give details about any inconsistencies.
Bazante, for his part, was not exactly forthright with investigators, according to the charges: At first, "he claimed no knowledge of who (the girl) was. He then claimed that he only talked to her on the phone and never saw her on Friday, Aug. 31. He then claimed that he picked her up at a Chevron station but took her to Roosevelt Park and never touched her. He then claimed that he did bring her back to his apartment but only so she could use the bathroom. He then admitted to kissing her, but nothing further."
Officers got a search warrant for Bazante's apartment and found an SKS rifle wrapped in a white hoodie under his bed. Because he's a felon, he was convicted of illegally possessing a gun. He also was convicted of kidnapping the girl.
If a jury had found Bazante guilty of raping the girl, he would have faced years behind bars. His defense attorney, Andrew Subin, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Nobody else was charged in connection to the case.
The girl was charged in a felony assault case earlier this week. On the afternoon of Nov. 3, her mom banned her from using the phone and told her to clean her room. In response, the girl threw things around the kitchen and started cutting herself with a butcher knife, according to the charges. When her mom told her to stop, the girl pinned her against the wall and held the knife above her head, prosecutors alleged.
Richey said those charges were only a "small, small factor" that damaged the girl's credibility.
Bazante, a known member of the Brown Pride Surenos gang, has a history of theft, assaulting police and illegally displaying weapons.
Reach Caleb Hutton at email@example.com or call 360-715-2276.