Ex-Rindge officer to plead guilty to sex charges

  • John Vargas-Cifrino, probable cause hearing, 8th Circuit Court Keene
  • John Vargas-Cifrino, probable cause hearing, 8th Circuit Court Keene

KEENE — A former part-time Rindge police officer and former full-time paraprofessional at ConVal High School in Peterborough released a statement Wednesday, taking responsibility for his actions in connection with charges of sexual assault on a minor. He is facing up to a year in jail as part of a plea agreement set to be presented in court Friday.

John Vargas-Cifrino, 35, of Harrisville is expected to plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of sexual assault of a minor at the Cheshire County Superior Court on Friday. He is charged with a felony count of attempted aggravated felonious sexual assault and two counts of misdemeanor sexual assault of a girl he knew between the ages of 13 and 16, according to court documents.

“I am taking responsibility for my actions,” Vargas-Cifrino said in a statement read Wednesday to the Ledger-Transcript by his attorney, Adam Cook of Cook Law Offices in Peterborough. “I do not want my behavior to tarnish the honor of law enforcement and the key roles that officers serve in the schools. I hope all will see that this is my mistake alone.”

On Jan. 17, Vargas-Cifrino filed a notice of intent with the court to plead guilty to two misdemeanor sexual assault charges. As a part of a plea deal, state prosecutors have agreed to drop the felony sex charge against Vargas-Cifrino, according to court records.

The provisions of a proposed plea sentence on file at the court recommend that a judge sentence Vargas-Cifrino to serve a year at the Cheshire County House of Corrections on the first misdemeanor sex charge and suspend for three years, pending good behavior, a second year in jail on the second charge. As a part of his sentence, Vargas-Cifrino would face two years probation and have to take a sex offender evaluation. He would also be ordered to have no contact with the victim and her family, according to court documents.

While the prosecution and the defense can recommend a sentence as part of a plea agreement, a judge will make the final decision.

Vargas-Cifrino had previously entered a plea of not guilty. A change in plea means Vargas-Cifrino has waived his right to a speedy trial, previously scheduled for July, according to court documents.

In an interview with the Ledger-Transcript following Vargas-Cifrino’s probable cause hearing at the 8th Circuit Court in Keene in August, Cook said, “[Vargas-Cifrino] is saddened and dismayed by the charges.” He would not comment further on the pending case.

Investigators said a Catholic priest first reported the allegations against Vargas-Cifrino, which prompted an internal investigation by Rindge police. Vargas-Cifrino was called to the Police Department for an interview on Aug. 5, 2012, and informed of the administrative investigation, according to Rindge Police Chief Frank Morrill. “In lieu of an imminent suspension and recommendation for termination, the officer opted to resign from his employment effective immediately for personal reasons,” Morrill told the Ledger-Transcript in August.

On Aug. 6, 2012, the matter was turned over to Keene police, who interviewed the victim and her mother. The victim told police she knew Vargas-Cifrino, who had been staying at her house in Keene since July 2011. According to court records, her mother said Vargas-Cifrino was a family friend for more than 13 years.

Vargas-Cifrino resigned as a full-time paraprofessional at ConVal High School on Aug. 15, 2012, just a few days after the school placed him on unpaid leave, according to ConVal’s Director of Human Resources Tim Markley. Vargas-Cifrino’s duties included assisting teachers with children who have behavioral challenges.

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