The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local News

February 22, 2014

Tucker man nets 40 years for sexual assault of a child



Van Zant admitted that he had physically assaulted the victim during an argument over a cell-phone but consistently denied any sexual abuse.

The defendant did not react when Judge Bentley read the jury’s verdicts, according to reports.

The jury reached its verdict on punishment at 4:50 p.m. on Thursday, after evidence was presented by the state and defense.

During the punishment phase, the District Attorney’s office called one witness — a relative of the defendant who told jurors he suffered the same abuse at the hands of the defendant when they were younger.

“We were pleased to be able to let this witness testify in the punishment portion,” Watkins said. “He never reported his crime to authorities, but was able to have closure by letting the jury know that this was not an isolated incident.”

District Attorney Doug Lowe explained that many times jurors are not allowed to hear about other bad acts by the defendant during the guilt/innocence phase of trial “because the law does not allow us to put on evidence of other crimes.”

“The system is designed so that defendants receive a fair trial based upon the evidence of the specific crime for which they are charged,” Lowe said. “However, when we speak to jurors in other cases about evidence of the crime, they always ask ‘what else has he done?’”

In addition to the 40 year no-parole sentence for Continuous Sexual Assault, Van Zant was ordered to serve maximum sentences on four additional counts of sexual misconduct:

• Count 2, Indecency with a Child by Exposure, third degree felony – 10 years

• Count 3, Indecency with A Child by Contact, second degree felony – 20 years

• Count 5, Sexual Assault of a Child, second degree felony – 20 years

• Count 6, Sexual Assault of a Child, second degree felony – 20 years

All sentences will be served concurrently, meaning the time for these four counts will be served at the same time as the 40 years without parole.

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