A sexual assault is a very serious charge involving hundreds of hours of work. This may be too much to expect an attorney to agree to take the case for free.
If your friend cannot afford an attorney, he can ask the court to appoint him an attorney free of charge. The attorneys who have qualified to represent defendants charged with this level of felony are much more experience than the attorneys who are on the misdemeanor appointment list, for example. That being said, your friend does not get the option of choosing his appointed attorney and, barring special circumstances, will have to go forward with the attorney appointed to him.
(If you are able to assist in preparing his defense, I would encourage you to take as active a role as you can. Many times, people charged with crimes do not have friends or family members who are willing and able to help the attorney gather all of the evidence in the case, which can be very useful for attorneys.)
Disclaimer: This answer is provided as a public service and as a general response to a general question, it is not meant, and should not be relied upon as specific legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.
Sexual assault on a minor is in fact a more heinous crime than most others. Most judges and juries look at these cases in a way that there is an uphill battle from the beginning. People charged with this crime often over look the idea that they will be targeted for the rest of their life as a sexual predator that, if convicted, will be required to be on a sex offender list forever. As such they will not get jobs, apartmens, and will be looking over their shoulder forever more. Not to exclude the possibility of a violent reaction when in prison by other inmates. All of that said, I represent people charged of this crime. I believe that they must hire a good lawyer that will take them seriously and not just look to plea them out. I have found the a large part of these cases are handled by public defenders and I have found that they tend to simply drag it out and then plea. I recommend that you find a way to come up with the money, forget the idea of a pro bono attorney as this kind of case does not warrant that kind of legal representation. You are welcome to call me and I would be happy to discuss a payment arrangment or to explain why you are not realizing the seriousness of the charge. It doesn't matter that he's innocent, it matters that someone has accused him and that he must defend that accusation. The truth does not present itself without a long difficult process of courtroom procedure. Joseph Chancellor www.chancellorlaw.com
I agree with the analysis and sage assessments of my colleagues. Your friend has a difficult case, which requires immediate attention. If he cannot afford a lawyer at this time he needs to apply for the assistance of one through the Court. Good luck.
DISCLAIMER I do not practice law in your State. This answer is provided for informational purposes only. This answer does not constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or constitute attorney advertising.