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Army commander denies knowing escort was a minor

SAN ANTONIO — A military commander charged in a sex-trafficking case says he did not know an escort he reportedly had sex with in San Antonio was underage, according to court records released Friday.

Regardless, Army Lt. Col. Raymond Valas, 41, was denied bail at a hearing last week in Syracuse, New York, where he was arrested.

Valas was indicted on charges of allegedly paying to have sex with a juvenile manipulated into prostitution by two San Antonio men, who are also charged with Valas. The incident reportedly occurred Aug. 26.

Valas' San Antonio-based lawyer, John Convery, said pretrial services staff in Syracuse recommended Valas be released on $25,000 bail during a hearing last week. But records show a judge there noted no conditions would “reasonably assure that Valas would not endanger others and the community by his continued involvement with child sex trafficking and efforts to seek opportunities to sexually abuse minors.”

The judge also noted that Valas, according to the indictment, had “a reasonable opportunity to observe the minor.”

Convery said he hopes to change another judge's mind during a new bail hearing in San Antonio, which has not yet been scheduled.

“I'm hoping for more sensible, reasonable actions and conditions that can assure his appearance and the safety of the community,” Convery said. “Other than this allegation, he's had an absolutely stellar record.”

The San Antonio Express-News previously identified Valas as being with the Army War College, but a spokeswoman clarified that he is not a teacher there, but a “nonmatriculated student” — a fellow at Syracuse University's Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism.

Though he has been listed as giving lectures on the military's role in combating the MS-13 gang, any lecturing would have been a personal decision, the spokeswoman said.

Valas, who is in the New Hampshire National Guard, most recently was commander of Joint Task Force Jaguar in a humanitarian mission in El Salvador, where he led 1,400 troops from Chile, Colombia, Canada, El Salvador and the U.S.
 

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