A judge's gavel. Photo via Pixabay.
A judge’s gavel. Photo via Pixabay.

A ride-hailing Lyft driver who sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl in Palm Desert after the two met during a ride is facing 16 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to a half-dozen felony charges.

Ismael Gaspar, 38, of Cathedral City, remains free on bond pending sentencing scheduled for May 13 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.

Gaspar pleaded guilty Thursday to one count each of burglary and committing lewd acts with a child under 14 years old, and two counts each of oral copulation of a minor under 14 years old and providing a minor with a controlled substance.

His plea was to the court and not as part of a deal with Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, prosecutors confirmed.

Gaspar’s trial was abruptly stopped last month amid jury selection after he fell ill.

Gaspar was arrested on March 26, 2018, on suspicion of sexually assaulting the teen days earlier at the Marriott Shadow Ridge Resort. According to a trial brief prepared by Deputy District Attorney Gypsy Yeager, Gaspar met the girl two days before the assault when he picked her up for a ride that a friend had ordered for her.

The two smoked methamphetamine before exchanging contact information, during which she told the defendant her true age, according to the prosecution.

Gaspar drove for Lyft at the time, according to court documents. A Lyft spokeswoman confirmed that the company removed Gaspar from the platform in 2018 after learning about his arrest.

The pair met up again on March 20, 2018. According to the trial brief, he brought her roses and the two smoked marijuana before they went to the resort, where the defendant broke into the gym and sexually assaulted the victim inside.

The teen “told the defendant she did not want to have sex, but she was afraid if she didn’t, the defendant would kidnap her and steal her belongings,” the brief says.

Gaspar has no documented felony convictions in Riverside County.

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