AG Balderas Announces Successful Appeal to Uphold Convictions of Albuquerque ‘Resident Child Molester’

For Immediate Release:
October 31, 2019
Contact: Matt Baca — (505) 270-7148

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Today, Attorney General Hector Balderas announced that the
2002 convictions of Jesse Lawrence Lente were upheld by the New Mexico Supreme
Court, after the Office of the Attorney General successfully fought to overturn a district
court decision to vacate some of Lente’s convictions. Lente was originally convicted of
raping and molesting his step-daughter beginning when she was in the second grade and
continuing over a period of years, occuring two to three times a week during that time
“We must believe survivors, plain and simple, and that applies even more so to vulnerable
children,” said Attorney General Balderas. “I am grateful to the Supreme Court for their
ruling and am pleased that our office was able to achieve justice on behalf of the child
survivor in this case.”
Lente argued in a habeas corpus petition that the manner in which the State presented
the charges against him violated his rights and that the child victim’s testimony was
insufficient to support his convictions. The district court agreed with Lente and overturned
some of his convictions. The Office of the Attorney General appealed that ruling and the
Supreme Court agreed with the office that all the convictions should stand.
In its opinion, the Supreme Court thoroughly examined the difficulties of prosecuting so
called “resident child molesters,” defendants who live in the same home as the children
they prey on. “These cases generally involve defendants who have regular access to and
control over children whom they sexually abuse in secrecy over long periods of time,” the
Supreme Court said. “The child victims in these cases are usually the sole witnesses of
the crimes perpetrated and, because of their age and the frequency of the sexual abuse
to which they are subjected, cannot provide detailed accounts of the abuse but only
generalized accounts of frequent sexual contact with the defendant.”
This important ruling is a critical victory for child survivors and provides important clarity
on the standards for prosecuting sex crimes against children and presenting child survivor
testimony to support convictions for those crimes.
Although not an issue in this case, the Court’s analysis also highlights the critical need to
amend New Mexico’s statutes of limitation to account for the psychological trauma
experienced by children who survive sexual abuse and how that trauma impacts their
reporting of sex crimes against them. Current law does not adequately allow for child
survivors to report sexual abuse years after it has taken place, and the law does not
account for the reasons why children may not report that abuse for many years.