Former Lawrence orchestra conductor, KU instructor sentenced to prison for sex acts with teen

Judge cites ‘total lack of judgment’ in ruling

photo by: Mike Yoder

The Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.

There are two sides to Carlos Espinosa-Machado, a judge highlighted Friday before sentencing him to prison.

One was a musician and conductor, described as hardworking, talented and even inspirational by some of those he taught, including as a doctoral student at the University of Kansas.

The other side sexually victimized a troubled 15-year-old girl he met online, using a fake social media name and age far younger than his actual 33 years. Douglas County District Court Judge Sally Pokorny said the teen asked Espinosa-Machado to bring her alcohol and marijuana in exchange for sex — and he did, even arranging a second meeting that never took place only because he was intercepted by police.

“My concern has to do with a total lack of judgment or impulse control,” Pokorny said. “This was a case of a child who told you how vulnerable she was, and you took advantage of it.”

Despite pleas for “mercy” and a probation sentence by Espinosa-Machado, his parents and his attorney, Pokorny sentenced him to 31 months in prison followed by post-release supervision for the rest of his life. He also must remain registered as a sex offender for 25 years.

Espinosa-Machado, now 35, had been free on bond throughout the 2-year-old case, including since his conviction almost a year ago.

But he never appeared on the Kansas sex offender registry and hasn’t appeared on any state’s public registry for months, the Journal-World previously reported.

He has been living in Nevada, his appointed attorney, Branden Smith, said Friday.

Nevada is a state that does not publicly disclose all sex offenders who are registered there. Instead, according to the Nevada Department of Public Safety, the state assigns “tiers” to its offenders. Only information about higher-severity offenders is posted online, and profiles of lower-tier offenders is kept secret from the public online or by request.

Espinosa-Machado was taken into custody following his sentencing and will stay in Kansas to serve his prison time. He has no prior criminal history, attorneys said.

Espinosa-Machado pleaded no contest and was convicted in August 2017 of one count of indecent liberties with a child and one count of furnishing alcohol to a minor for illicit purposes, both felonies. The crimes occurred in spring 2016.

Before a plea deal, Espinosa-Machado’s charges were more numerous and severe: one count of aggravated indecent liberties with the child, two counts of criminal sodomy and one count of furnishing alcohol to a minor for illicit purposes, all felonies. He also had been charged with one count of possessing marijuana, a misdemeanor.

Prosecutor Alice Walker said at the plea hearing that in May 2016, a Eudora police officer approached a vehicle stopped in a city park after dark, when the park was closed. The driver, Espinosa-Machado, told the officer he was waiting to meet his girlfriend.

photo by: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office

Carlos R. Espinosa-Machado

Police then talked to the girl, who told them she’d met Espinosa-Machado a few weeks earlier on the social media app Hot or Not, though he used a different name and said he was 21. After she agreed to meet and told him she was 15, Espinosa-Machado took her to his parents’ house in Lawrence, where he gave her whiskey and they had sex.

On Friday, Walker had a detective testify about evidence of a possible second victim that didn’t lead to charges.

Lawrence Police Department Detective David Garcia, who helped Eudora police with the investigation, said that while searching Espinosa-Machado’s phone he found social media communications with a 16-year-old girl. Garcia found and interviewed that girl, who said the person on the other end of a profile matching Espinosa-Machado’s told her he was 17, asked her over Skype to expose her breasts and then to do more inappropriate things. She said no at first but gave in after the person threatened to expose photos he had taken of her breasts to others online.

Walker argued that probation officers could not possibly adequately supervise Espinosa-Machado’s online activity and that he should go to prison.

“This wasn’t a one-time thing,” Walker said. “Mr. Espinosa-Machado is a danger to the community.”

Espinosa-Machado’s attorney objected to the detective’s testimony, calling it “a hunch.”

Citing a sex offender evaluation completed this spring, Smith said Espinosa-Machado and the public would be better served if he were granted probation and continued treatment in the community. Smith said his client had a supportive family with strong values, an advanced degree and gift for music, and would have monitoring in place — including polygraph testing — to ensure compliance.

Smith said he’d been out on bond with no problems while the case has been pending, including in his line of work, which involves music lessons.

“There’s no concern for Mr. Espinosa-Machado to be around minors,” Smith said.

Espinosa-Machado told the judge he’d made a mistake.

“I took advantage of a situation in which I should have known better,” he said. “From the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry.”

He said over the past two years he’s had “emotionally open and brutally honest conversations” with his family, friends and pastors. In asking for a nonprison sentence, he said the evaluation had been an eye-opening experience and he would follow through with all recommendations.

When the judge announced she was sentencing him to prison, he put his face in his hands on the table.

At KU, Espinosa-Machado received a bachelor’s degree in music education in 2008 and a doctorate of musical arts in spring 2015, KU officials confirmed. His attorney said he also taught other music students at KU.

Around the time he was charged, he was working for the Kansas City Medical Arts Symphony, where he was music director. He also was an associate conductor with the Philharmonia of Greater Kansas City, conductor in residence and founding member of the Taneycomo Festival Orchestra in Branson, Mo., and had been involved with productions at Lawrence Opera Theater, the Lawrence Arts Center and KU Opera.

From August 2016 until the day after his conviction in August 2017, Espinosa-Machado was employed as a music professor at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina.

Contact Journal-World public safety reporter Sara Shepherd