May 27, 2022
On Monday, May 23, 2022, the Eighth Judicial District Court of Rains County selected a jury in Cause No. 6172 for the felony offense of Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child. The name of the defendant, a local citizen of Rains County, is not being released to protect the identity of the 11-year-old child victim.
The offense occurred over an extended period which began in Irving, Texas. The family moved to Emory in 2017, and the abuse continued through January of 2021. At the trial, the defendant was 50 years old, and the victim was 11. Theryn Waggener of Winona represented the defendant.
After selecting the jury, Rains County Attorney Robert Vititow began presenting the evidence Monday afternoon. The State and the defense closed their cases Tuesday morning, and after hearing the evidence, the jury returned a guilty verdict around noon.
The punishment phase began after lunch. The defendant faced 25 to 99 years of life in prison, without the possibility of parole, and up to a $10,000 fine. The defendant elected to have the jury assess his punishment. Vititow argued to the jury that if someone steals something from you, such as a ring, you can replace it; what the defendant took from his daughter, she can never return. It’s a life sentence for her, and he deserves a life sentence. There are certain acts that when a person commits, they should forfeit the right to walk among the public freely, and this is one of those acts. The jury determined the appropriate punishment, in this case, was life and did not assess a fine.
Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Young Child is an offense passed by the legislature in 2007 in House Bill 8, known as Jessica’s Law. They created the bill in direct response to the problems inherent in prosecuting sex crimes involving child victims. Under this law, jurors do not have to agree to their guilty verdict on the same acts of sexual abuse that occurred. Instead, the jury must unanimously agree that the defendant committed at least two acts of sexual abuse allegations in the indictment over 30 or more days. For example, Vititow explained that four jurors might believe acts one and three occurred in a hypothetical case. The remaining jurors may only believe acts two and four occurred as long as they all agree any two acts occurred and they were more than 30 days apart. A defendant convicted under this statute is not eligible for parole.
The indictment, in this case, alleged acts of sexual abuse being indecency with a child by contact and aggravated sexual assault of a child, with three different dates alleged to have occurred on or about January 1, 2018, December 1, 2019, and December 1, 2020. The State was not required to prove the exact dates of the abuse, but only that they occurred before the grand jury returned an indictment on June 29, 2021.
Vititow commended the court personnel and the citizens of Rains County, who served as jurists, for the excellent job they did. The jury took their job very seriously. Law enforcement is a joint effort that includes the officers, the prosecutor’s staff, all court personnel, and the citizens of Rains County who served as the jurors.
Rains County Attorney, Robert Vititow