SALT LAKE CITY — A Real Salt Lake player accused of having sex with a 15-year-old girl pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Monday.
Ricardo Velazco, 24, pleaded guilty to sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, in 3rd District Court. He was originally charged with unlawful sexual activity with a minor, a third-degree felony carrying a potential sentence of up to five years in prison.
The class A misdemeanor is punishable with a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 16.
Charging documents allege that Velazco, who was 23 at the time, had sex with the teen in Draper on May 20.
Attorney Greg Skordas said his client met the girl in a bar and was led to believe she was 18 years old.
"He was quite upset when we told him the true facts (about the girl's age). He has been honest about his conduct from day one," Skordas said. "He absolutely believed she was of age."
Under Utah law, being misled or uninformed about a minor's age is not a defense against criminal charges, Skordas said.
He noted Tuesday that by admitting to the misdemeanor offense, Velazco avoids a felony conviction and will not be required to register as a sex offender.
While no agreement was made regarding his sentencing as part of the deal, Skordas hopes the judge will take Velazco's young age, his lack of criminal history and his belief that the girl was 18 into consideration.
Velazco was suspended from the team and from Major League Soccer when the charges were filed against him in August. At the time, RSL announced in a statement that further decisions about Velazco's status with the team would not be made until after the case was adjudicated.
A call to RSL was not immediately returned Tuesday. Skordas said he was unsure how the agreement will impact Velzaco's MLS career.
Velazco, of Casa Grande, Arizona, signed with RSL on Sept. 6, 2016, after two seasons with the Real Monarchs, according to the team's website. He is the first player to advance from the team's Real Salt Lake-Arizona Academy to the Monarchs roster and then on to RSL, the site says.