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74-year-old pleads no contest to sexually assaulting cinema employee with autism ‘approximately 20 times’

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Humberto Paniagua

WAUKESHA COUNTY — A 74-year-old Greenfield man accused of sexually assaulting a woman with autism several times while she was at work at the Marcus Ridge Cinema in New Berlin has reached a plea deal in the case against him.

Humberto Paniagua on Wednesday, Feb. 20 pleaded no contest to one of four felony charges filed against him. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for April 11.

Charges were filed in March of 2017.

The victim’s father told police the victim has autism and is cognitively disabled. She was 24 at the time, but functioned at a mental age of a 10-year-old or 12-year-old.

Marcus Ridge Cinema

The victim’s father said his daughter cleaned the lobby, theaters and bathrooms at the theater for four years.

Prosecutors said Paniagua would come to the theater while in town visiting his family. The victim said on several occasions he “touched” her and “hurt” her on her “privates” both over her clothing and under. At times he even used his mouth and also directed her to touch his genitals.

Court records showed the victim “was scared and did not want to be touched,” and the sexual assaults allegedly happened “approximately 20 times.”

Marcus Ridge Cinema

Sometimes the incidents occurred in the dark theater. When police asked her about about yelling “stop” or saying “no,” she said “she did not want to get in trouble or disturb people watching the movie.”

Surveillance cameras caught a number of the inappropriate advances, however, it was a manager who saw an act firsthand and told Paniagua to stop and leave.

Marcus Theaters released a statement when charges were filed:

“This guest has been banned from all Marcus Theatres. This was truly an unfortunate incident. The safety and security of our associates and guests is our top priority and we appreciate our associate manager’s quick response and handling of this incident.”

When police informed Paniagua of the charges, he said, “Oh, yeah, I understand,” according to prosecutors.

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