TOPICS > Politics

Pregnant Teens

July 31, 1996 at 12:00 AM EDT


JEFFREY KAYE: A raid by San Bernardino, California police this summer had the trappings of a big time arrest.

POLICEMAN: (yelling) Which car guys?

JEFFREY KAYE: But the capture was for a crime which until recently brought comparatively little attention from law enforcement. Twenty-year-old Rory West was charged with having sex with four teenage girls–all under the age of eighteen.

DETECTIVE: You are under arrest for several counts of unlawful intercourse with a minor–several counts of–

RORY WEST: Didn’t happen.

DETECTIVE: Hang on–several counts of oral copulation of a minor.

RORY WEST: Okay. It didn’t happen.

DETECTIVE: Okay. That’s what courts are for.

JUDGE: Rory West.

JEFFREY KAYE: This case is part of a statewide effort to more vigorously prosecute men who have sex with girls under 18 outside of marriage.

SHERRY TOURINO: (in court) Your Honor, also you should note on count four, there is an admission to a BGI allegation.

JEFFREY KAYE: Since January, San Bernardino County Prosecutor Sherry Tourino has specialized in cases involving men she describes as “predators.”

SHERRY TOURINO: What I’m trying to do is put them in prison. That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m looking for the age disparity where you have some, you have these little girls who are looking for father figures, for somebody to love them, who are desperately vulnerable, and end up pregnant.

And then they have this baby because then they have something that has to love them because they’re the mommy, and we have this cycle of children having children.

JEFFREY KAYE: Detective William Rogers investigated and arrested West.

WILLIAM ROGERS, Detective: He will go to, uh, one of our local roller rinks. Uh, he befriends these, uh, young ladies that are fourteen, fifteen years old. He also hangs out, uh, at some of our local high schools. Um, he will befriend them, he begins to date them and then he begins to have a series of um, uh, acts of sexual intercourse, uh, oral copulation, with these, uh, youngsters.

JEFFREY KAYE: The new emphasis for law enforcement is an $8 million initiative launched last year by Governor Pete Wilson.

GOV. PETE WILSON, California: And for the adult men who impregnate vulnerable teenage girls I have this special message: That is not just wrong, not just a shame, it’s a crime–a crime called statutory rape. We’re not going to just hunt you down and dock your pay for child support. We are going to prosecute statutory rape in every county of California.

JEFFREY KAYE: The Wilson announcement came amid concern about rising rates of teenage pregnancy. 12 percent of all U.S. births are to teenagers, and while it was commonly assumed that teens were getting other teens pregnant, a 1994 study showed two thirds of teen mothers had children fathered by adult men. The California crackdown was designed not only to protect girls, but to save the state billions of dollars a year in welfare and other aid.

JUDGE: (talking to Rory) You are pleading guilty to three counts of violation of penal code section 261.5–

JEFFREY KAYE: West pleaded guilty to three counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with minors. As part of a plea bargain, he was sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation.

JEFFREY KAYE: Do you mind if we talk to you about your grandson?

JEFFREY KAYE: His family, who did not appear on camera, said West didn’t know the girls were under 18. But one of his accusers, 15 year old Joy Rizzo, says he did. She says he used her.

JOY RIZZO: He was nice to me for a long time. That whole week, actually, that he was coming over and visiting, he was really nice to me, but after we slept together the first time, we were fighting constantly.

SHERRY TOURINO: This defendant is a little different because he’s much younger than most. He was charged because there were so many victims. I mean, there were four or five young women. Generally, we’re talking about older men; we’re talking older than twenty-five, into their thirties.

JEFFREY KAYE: Thirty-year-old Jorge Hernandez is more typical of Tourino’s cases. She has also charged him with violating statutory rape laws. And even though he has pleaded not guilty, according to the prosecution, DNA tests show him to be the father of his teenage girlfriend’s two children. Minerva Saucedo’s older son was born when she was 15, the second when she was 17.

Saucedo says Hernandez lived with her and brought stability to her life. With Hernandez in jail awaiting trial, Saucedo–who is now 18–says their kids are without a father.

MINERVA SAUCEDO: We were really a happy family. They just come on and take him, you know, trying to destroy a family that’s already together.

JEFFREY KAYE: You said in a sense that you thought he kind of rescued you from the street.

MINERVA SAUCEDO: Yeah, because I was already in wrong steps, becoming like a prostitute. So–

JEFFREY KAYE: And then you met him?

MINERVA SAUCEDO: Mm-hmm. I met him and then we started going out. So he told me that he didn’t want me to be in the streets anymore, so he offered me to go live with him, and I said, okay, because, you know, I didn’t want to destroy my life outside.

JEFFREY KAYE: What is the point of this? Here you got a guy who’s 30 years old. She’s an adult now. She’s 18. They’ve got two kids; they’re a family unit. The say that you’re splitting apart a family unit.

SHERRY TOURINO: What we have is an ex-convict who is feeding off the taxpayers’ money and has been doing so in between his parole revocations.

JEFFREY KAYE: Prosecutor Tourino says Hernandez used Saucedo for her welfare checks.

SHERRY TOURINO: The checks come in; as far as I know, he’s not employed, he hasn’t been employed, he isn’t employed, he never will be employed. And he will live in that family, and we will continue to create children with a welfare system where this mother has, what, an eighth grade education maybe, no skills, and another child and another child and another child. And the fact that she’s 18 is only that fact because it took us this long to find out what was going on.

JEFFREY KAYE: Many counselors working with sexually active teens believe the new emphasis on law enforcement is important but won’t solve a complex problem. Nancy Regas is a counselor with the San Diego Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting Program. She estimates 60 percent of teen moms have backgrounds of abuse, molestation, or neglect, problems that go beyond law enforcement.

NANCY REGAS, Counselor: I think that many times that criminal justice appears to be the quick fix, lock him up, and he won’t do it anymore; lock him up. But on the other hand, there’s another man out there. There is another adolescent who has not been cared for and is looking for somebody to love them. You know, many of these girls didn’t want babies. They wanted love and got a baby instead.

JEFFREY KAYE: As an example, Regas introduced us to 14-year-old Loraina Felley and her nine-month-old son. Felley says the teenage father of her baby was a drug user and that her own family was abusive and involved her in illegal drugs..

JEFFREY KAYE: What kind of drugs were you doing with them?

MISS FELLEY: I was doing marijuana, crystal, and drinking.

JEFFREY KAYE: Crystal is methamphetamine.


JEFFREY KAYE: With your parents?

MISS FELLEY: Yeah, not actually with my mom, because my mom did drugs and now she’s kind of settling down, I heard, but my sisters and my cousins.

JEFFREY KAYE: The teenage pregnancy problem is so great in San Diego, the school system offers day care and parenting classes. Case managers pay home visits to some eleven hundred pregnant and parenting teens. Almost 400 more are on a waiting list. Regas says the best way to combat the epidemic of teen pregnancy is through education, since too often girls are products of their upbringing.

NANCY REGAS: What teens are doing is they are modeling the worst in adult behavior.

JEFFREY KAYE: When you say modeling adult behavior, how important is the family influence?

NANCY REGAS: That’s the key. That’s–what–you become what you learn, what you see. And so that is the role model. And we parent as we are parented. There is a generation pattern when you have, you know, a teen mother, another teen mother, another teen mother.

JEFFREY KAYE: That was the case with many of the young women we spoke to.

JEFFREY KAYE: How old was your mom when she had her first kid?

MISS FELLEY: I don’t know. I think like around 16.

JEFFREY KAYE: Teen pregnancy also runs in Joy Rizzo’s family according to her mother, Patricia Montoya.

JEFFREY KAYE: You were how old when you had your son?

PATRICIA MONTOYA: I was 18 when I had my son.

JEFFREY KAYE: So you were a teenager?


JEFFREY KAYE: And what about your mother?

PATRICIA MONTOYA: My mother had five kids before she was twenty years old.

JEFFREY KAYE: So this goes back several generations?


JEFFREY KAYE: Any ideas about why?

PATRICIA MONTOYA: The only thing I can think of its, its like with myself, is, is an absent father, you know, not having a father around and not having that discipline, I guess.

JEFFREY KAYE: It was Montoya, herself a divorced mother, who tried to break the cycle in her family by going to the police. She told them her daughter, Joy, had been intimate with several adult men.

JEFFREY KAYE: Four guys in a row now, and you’ve called the cops since she was fourteen on each of them, right?


JEFFREY KAYE: Obviously, there’s some kind of pattern here.


JEFFREY KAYE: Can you figure it out?

PATRICIA MONTOYA: I can’t figure it–I–no, I can’t figure it out, unless she’s like trying to get away from me or something, you know. That’s what I–that’s how I took it, that she wanted to be with these older people, because they were offering her more than what I could prob–could offer her, you know.

JEFFREY KAYE: Prosecutor Tourino says most parents don’t alert police. That’s why she gets most of her information from welfare applications.

SHERRY TOURINO: I would say in 80 percent of the cases that the parents of the victims either actively condone or tolerate the situation. See, these aren’t people what are calling the police. That’s why I said we are building our own cases.

JEFFREY KAYE: On the welfare rolls?

SHERRY TOURINO: On the child support rolls, the welfare rolls. Nobody’s complaining. Nobody’s calling the police. There aren’t any police reports being generated until it gets to us and we generate the case.

JEFFREY KAYE: Tourino believes that prosecuting the men will eventually pay off.

SHERRY TOURINO: I may not be able to help these victims in these cases, but if our taking a stand on this issue prevents one child from finding herself in this position, I won. If it prevents one child from finding herself in this position as a mother at age fifteen, then I’ve done a job.

JEFFREY KAYE: Teenage mother Minerva Saucedo spends hours at the courthouse whenever there’s a hearing for her boyfriend, Jorge Hernandez. His case is set for trial in September.