McALLEN — A Louisiana man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a young McAllen teenager he met on Snapchat.
U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez sentenced Brandon Galvez, 24, of Chalmette, Louisiana, to the mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years during a hearing Monday afternoon.
Galvez will be under judicial supervision for five years after his release from prison and will have to register as a sex offender. The judge further ordered that he have no contact with the sexual assault survivor or other children.
Alvarez said that Galvez’s actions were intended to deceive and that this caused her serious concern.
“You’re trying to evade a lot of responsibility here,” the judge told Galvez as he stood before her and awaited his fate.
Alvarez referenced a letter Galvez wrote to the court asking for leniency – given that this was his first offense to be given a suspended sentence.
“There’s no first conviction for a felony here,” Alvarez said.
Galvez and the girl had started chatting over Snapchat in June 2020. Just days later, he and another man, Jose Antonio Ramos-Serrano, traveled from Louisiana to McAllen to pick her up.
Law enforcement first became aware of the situation when the girl’s mother reported that she had run away and left a note on June 21, 2020.
Later, border guards arrested Galvez and Ramos-Serrano at the Falfurrias checkpoint as they attempted to exit the Rio Grande Valley on the same day.
The 13-year-old girl was in the vehicle with the two men, McAllen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez said during a June 23, 2020 news conference announcing her arrest.
“Between the time she left the house and arrived at Falfurrias, she had already been sexually assaulted,” the police chief said.
“Many crimes, including sexual assault, had happened within the hour of leaving the home,” Rodriguez added.
The boss also explained that although the girl had willingly got into the vehicle with Galvez and Ramos-Serrano, a crime had still taken place.
“Even though she’s made up her mind, she’s just not old enough. She’s not mature enough to vote and know how to vote,” Rodriguez said.
The girl’s decisions had repercussions when Galvez’s case went to federal court a few months later.
There he was charged with kidnapping, coercion and seduction of a minor and conspiring to transport a minor with intent to engage in a criminal sexual act.
Galvez faced 20 years on the kidnapping charges and 10 years on the other two counts, as well as a fine of up to $250,000 on each charge.
However, during the court hearing, Galvez couldn’t seem to understand that taking the girl was a crime — regardless of her decision. He admitted this when, a month after his case was referred to federal court, he told a magistrate that he did not understand the charges against him.
And his own lawyers worried that he wouldn’t be able to help them with his defense.
They were so concerned that his defense attorney, Lee “Kenny” Perez, filed a motion in December 2020 asking the court to conduct a competency assessment for Galvez.
“Brandon Galvez is currently unable to adequately and reasonably assist in his defense,” Perez said in the filing.
“In particular, the attorney is unable to communicate with the defendant on the relevant facts of the case and has serious doubts about the defendant’s (sic) ability to understand the nature of the proceedings and to stand trial,” he explained further.
To support the argument, Perez noted that Galvez has been on Social Security since childhood and was diagnosed with ADHD.
However, during a competency hearing the following September, Alvarez ruled that Galvez was indeed fit to stand trial.
On August 4, Galvez reached a settlement with federal prosecutors in which he would plead guilty to the kidnapping charges in exchange for the government dismissing the other two charges against him.
But as to whether Galvez really understood the seriousness of the charges against him and the consequences of his guilty plea, his attorney Perez said, “He said he understood.”
“He told the judge he understood,” Perez said.
However, when she delivered his punishment on Monday, Alvarez indicated that she believed Galvez’s alleged incompetence was something far more sinister.
“It’s very calculated in my opinion,” Alvarez said. “That you’re only coming to pick up this girl.”
Galvez’s co-defendant, Ramos-Serrano, is due to be sentenced on December 16.