Blackrock Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Child Sexual Abuse Charge
ALBUQUERQUE—Vernon Niiha, 51, a member of Zuni Pueblo who resides in Blackrock, N.M., pleaded guilty this morning to an abusive sexual contact charge. Under the terms of his plea agreement, Niiha will be sentenced to prison term within the range of 36 to 48 months followed by a term of supervised release to be determined by the court. Niiha will be required to register as a sex offender.
Niiha was arrested in Aug. 2013, on an indictment alleging that he sexually abused a child under the age of 12 years from Mar. 2002 through Mar. 2003, in Indian country in McKinley County, N.M.
During today’s hearing, Niiha entered a guilty plea to a felony information charging him with abusive sexual contact, and admitted sexually abusing the victim by touching the victim’s genitalia. Niiha has been in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest and will remain detained pending his sentencing hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.
This case was investigated by the Albuquerque office of the FBI and Zuni Pueblo Tribal Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle T. Nayback as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/.