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Man pleads guilty to abusing sister

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Jose Rodriguez agrees to deal OKd by Hilgers

By Lisa King

A man whose adoptive family lives in Shelby County pleaded guilty Friday to first-degree sexual abuse of his adoptive sister.
Jose A. Rodriguez, 24, of Louisville, who was indicted in December 2011, entered his plea before Shelby Circuit Judge Charles Hickman, and his attorney, public defender Ashley Bailey, told Hickman that she and prosecutors had reached an agreement, with a portion of the recommended 5-year sentence to be served and the rest probated.

Rodriguez was indicted Dec. 21, 2011, by a Shelby County Grand Jury for first-degree sexual abuse of a child under 12 years old. The victim was his stepsister, Ashley Hilger.

Hilger, now 17, chose to speak publically in October when her parents, Beverly and James Hilger of Shelby County, brought a lawsuit against social workers from the Kentucky Cabinet of Health and Family Services for not revealing that Rodriquez and his brother, Angel Pargas, had been sexually abused before the Hilgers adopted them.

When Rodriguez pleaded guilty, Hickman imposed several conditions with the plea, including that Rodriquez undergo sex offender treatment, register with the Kentucky Sex Offender Registry and have no contact with either his stepsister or any minor children.

Hickman allowed a surety bond, and Rodriguez was bailed out by a friend, Lauren Smith.

Hickman set a sentencing date of Jan. 6.

Beverly Hilger said the Shelby County Commonwealth Attorney’s office had consulted with her before negotiating Rodriquez’s plea.

“We were in agreement with it,” she said. “Laura Donnell’s office did a phenomenal job with it. We’re very fortunate to have such a good commonwealth attorney in Shelby County. We had offered him this plea numerous times, and he had rejected it but decided to accept it now.

“Anything to keep Ashley from going through the trauma of a trial, we are pleased with.”

Hilger said her daughter “is doing OK, just OK.”

William McMurray of Louisville, attorney for the Hilgers, said the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Louisville, is in the discovery phase. The Hilgers filed the suit Oct. 14.

At that time Beverly Hilger had said at a press conference that the workers’ neglect in not informing her and her husband of the boys’ history led not only to Ashley’s being molested but her sisters as well. Rodriquez is only charged with molesting Ashley.

Pargas was not arrested because he was four years younger than Rodriquez when the Hilgers learned of the abuse. He has moved back to Texas, where his birth family resides.

Rodriquez and Pargas, now 20, brothers by birth, had been removed in 1999 from their birth family and later placed in foster care under the authority of the Cabinet and offered for adoption through a local television program called Wednesday’s Child. Between 2004 and 2005, while in the custody of the Cabinet and under foster care, the brothers were subjected to repeated sexual abuse and exposed to inappropriate behavior, the suit said.

It maintains that the Cabinet documented the history of their sexual behaviors, and in February 2004 or before Beverly Hilger saw the television show and that the boys, then 11 and 15 years old, were being offered for adoption and contacted the Cabinet to learn more about adopting them.

Ashley Hilger said in October that she did not immediately tell her parents about the abuse by Rodriguez but hoped that it would stop when he moved out to go to college. But when he came back to visit and the abuse happened again, she told her parents, and Rodriguez was arrested.