Cecily Aguilar facing up to 30 years in prison after guilty plea in Vanessa Guillen’s killing
WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Vanessa Guillen’s parents and one of her sisters watched Tuesday as the woman who conspired with her soldier boyfriend to dispose of Guillen’s remains in 2020 pleaded guilty to four felony charges that could land her in prison for up to 30 years.
Cecily Ann Aguilar, 24, pleaded guilty in U.S. Magistrate Court in Waco to one count of being an accessory after the fact and three counts of making false statements or representations to the government.
Dressed in orange jail clothes, Aguilar spoke loudly and clearly as U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey C. Manske admonished her of her rights and informed her that her guilty pleas could result in a total maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, total fines up to $1 million and up to 12 years of federal supervision after her release from prison.
Guillen’s disappearance and death sparked local and nationwide protests, led to legislative and administrative reforms in the way the military handles sexual harassment and sexual assault complaints and is the subject of a recently released Netflix documentary, “I am Vanessa Guillen,” which chronicles her family’s and others’ efforts to obtain justice.
Guillen’s family, which has a pending lawsuit against the Army, alleged she had been sexually harassed before she was killed. In December 2020, the Army found “major flaws” in the culture at Fort Hood and the military in general.
Guillen’s sister, Mayra Guillen, said witnessing Aguilar plead guilty brought a measure of relief to her family. She also said she hoped Albright sentences Aguilar to the maximum sentence possible.
“There’s a lot of different ways to describe justice but I want to see her get the time that she deserves for the crime that she did. For some people that might be a life sentence for some people that might be the death penalty I comfort myself knowing she’ll be locked up most of the rest of her life and I hope she has time to sit down and think about what she did and how she impacted our life and not just our life but all the people that know Vanessa’s name and have supported us through the years,” said Mayra Guillen.
Natalie Khawam, the Guillen family’s attorney, said in a statement that Aguilar’s guilty plea “was another step on the long path toward justice for Vanessa, my client, and her courageous family.”
“I will never stop fighting for my clients and will continue to seek and demand justice for victims and their families until it’s achieved,” Khawam said.
Aguilar was named in an 11-count superseding indictment with aiding her boyfriend, Army Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who investigators believe killed Guillen, dismembered her body and buried her remains.
Robinson, 20, shot himself in June 2020 as Killeen police officers were on their way to arrest him.
A spokesperson for the Federal Public Defender’s Office said no one from the office would comment on Tuesday’s proceedings. Aguilar is represented by Lewis Gainor and Ashley Askari.
Under the terms of Aguilar’s plea agreement, government prosecutors will dismiss the remaining charges in the superseding indictment, including conspiracy to tamper with documents or proceedings; two counts of tampering with documents or proceedings; two counts of accessory after the fact; one count of destruction, alteration or falsification of records in a federal investigation and one counts of making a false statement or representation.
In explaining the terms of the 20-page plea agreement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Frazier said Aguilar waived her right to appeal her sentence except under special circumstances and agreed to make any restitution to the victims if ordered by U.S. District Judge Alan Albright.
No sentencing date was set Tuesday, but Manske ordered a presentence report on Aguilar, which could take from 90 to 120 days.
Frazier declined comment on the case until after Aguilar is sentenced.
Guillen, a Houston native, was last seen on the night of April 22, 2020, in the parking lot of her 3rd Cavalry Regiment Engineer Squadron Headquarters. Keys to her car and her barracks room and her ID card and wallet were later found in the armory room where she had worked earlier in the day.
Contractors working on a fence along the Leon River in Bell County found her remains more than two months later on June 30, 2020.
The superseding indictment alleges Aguilar lied when she told investigators she and Robinson were in her apartment from late in the evening on April 22, 2020, through the early morning hours on April 23, 2020. The indictment also alleges Aguilar bought cement to cover the burial sites.
Aguilar also was charged with destroying information in Robinson’s Google account on his cell phone in an effort to impede the investigation.
Provisions of the “I Am Vanessa Gillen Act” were included in the $770 billion National Defense Authorization Act that President Joe Biden signed in December 2021.
Under the act, commanders no longer will be involved in military sexual harassment or sexual assault investigations and the decision to prosecute those allegations will be made outside service members’ chain of command. They also will be guaranteed protections against retaliation.
Fourteen Army leaders eventually were fired or suspended in the wake of an investigation into how those allegations were investigated. The action was spearheaded by Guillen’s death.
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