A 32-year-old Columbus man who in March was acquitted by a jury of sexually assaulting a woman is heading to prison for an extended period of time after being found guilty of other felony offenses.

Judge Robert Steinke recently sentenced Juan Pablo Gutierrez to spend the next one to two years in prison for tampering with a witness, an indeterminate sentence of two to five years for violating the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry Act and one to two years in prison for violating the terms of a year-long probation sentence levied in 2017 for also violating the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry Act.

All charges were contained in three separate case filings which were individually addressed by Judge Robert Steinke. The sentence levied for violating the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry Act is set to run consecutively to the other two sentences, which are running concurrently (together).

In April 2018, officers responded to a Columbus residence in response to an alleged sexual assault. A female occupying the home said that her estranged boyfriend, the defendant, broke into her home and that she awoke to him standing over her bed, according to a warrantless arrest affidavit. She noted that she stayed quiet so that she didn’t wake her children who were sleeping in a bedroom across the hall.

Gutierrez reportedly told her that he was there to stab her boyfriend and demanded to know his identity, court records show. The man was not there at the time, and the woman reportedly wouldn’t tell the defendant her boyfriend’s identity.

Court records show the defendant allegedly pleaded for their relationship to be reconciled, and when she refused, he proceeded to rape her.

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A jury, court records show, didn’t find enough evidence to convict him of sexual assault, burglary and making terroristic threats. However, it did convict the defendant of tampering with a witness/informant or juror, a Class IV felony, punishable by up to two years in prison.

Court records show the defendant, a ‘lifetime’ offender on the Nebraska Sex Offender Registry, in September 2018 registered with the Platte County Sheriff’s Office as living at a home in Duncan. An investigation determined that the defendant likely never lived at the residence, court records show.

Under the Nebraska Sex Offenders Registry Act, any registered offender has a three-day grace period to notify his or her registry location of a change in residency. This resulted in a new charge being levied against the defendant by the state.

In other district court news:

*Eric Behrens, 38, of Monroe, had his sentencing continued until 10 a.m. on June 19. Behrens previously pleaded no contest to several charges relating to a December 2018 flight to avoid arrest with a minor passenger present in the vehicle. Court records show the defendant fled from police in his vehicle and then drew a knife when confronted by law enforcement prior to being shot with a Taser.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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News Editor

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram, Schuyler Sun and The Banner-Press newspapers. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.

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