The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

November 23, 2013

Michigan man sentenced to 35 years for sexual assault

Staff Reports
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE —

An Anderson County jury sentenced a Michigan man to 35 years in prison without the possibility of parol Friday for continuous sexual assault of child.

A jury of five men and seven women deliberated less than 20 minutes before returning the verdict against Galo Gonzales, 63, of Bay City, Mich. at 9:50 a.m. Friday in the district court of 369th District Judge Bascom W. Bentley III.

The case against Gonzales was prosecuted by assistant district attorneys Elizabeth Watkins and Scott Holden. Gonzales was represented by local attorney Mark Cargill.

Anderson County District Attorney Doug Lowe said that according to Texas law, “continuous sexual abuse occurs when a person commits multiple acts of sexual abuse over a period longer than 30 days.”

Continuous sexual abuse is a first degree felony with a minimum punishment of 25 years without possibility of parole. The maximum penalty is life in prison.

“The jury felt since they were pretty sure Gonzales would be 98 years old when he got out of prison — that would be enough time to protect other children from being his prey,” Lowe said.

The victim, a female child now 13 years old, testified by closed circuit camera on Thursday morning after Judge Bentley ruled video testimony was necessary to protect the victim from “the traumatic effects of testifying in open court.”

The victim testified that when she was 7 or 8 years old, Gonzales took her to his room and pulled her onto his bed on top of his body. While grabbing her behind, Gonzales “humped her,” the girl said. She described other acts Gonzales did to her.

Gonzales who had served multiple sentences for illegal drugs, beginning in 1969 and ending in the 1990s, did not testify in his own behalf.

Gonzales was tried under a part of the 2007 “Jessica’s Law.” Although relatively new, this law enacted by Texas Legislature in September 2007, provided the most vulnerable victims some much needed relief, according to Watkins.

“Jessica’s Law” came about after the 2005 kidnapping, rape, and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford by a already convicted sex offender in Florida.

This death caused nationwide uproar over what some in law enforcement considered a weakness in penalties for repeat offenders and in proving child abuse cases where a child might not be able to remember the exact date the abuse had occurred.

Many states, including Texas, enacted Jessica’s law to strengthen already tough laws on child crime.

The statute allows for a child victim that has been abused repeatedly, but may be too young to pinpoint a date where abuse happened, to testify that the abuse occurred over a period of time longer than 30 days.

As long as the child can state that the abuse occurred over this time frame, they are not required to give exact dates.

Watkins says this law is absolutely appropriate.

“Many of our youngest victims can tell you exactly what happened to them, describing the acts of abuse with clarity, down to the pictures on the wall of the type of light fixtures,” Watkins said. “However, many are so young that they can’t remember exact dates and times. Most adults have trouble with this.

“Our system is designed for justice, and this law, and children it’s designed to protect, fulfills that requirement,” Watkins added.

The identities of the victims of sexual assault are not disclosed to protect their privacy.