Excuse Harry for being old and sappy, remembering forty years back when Vic Feazell was under Federal indictment and convicted Ed Graf in State Court. Tommy Witherspoon, our supposedly unbiased reporter for life, replayed Feazell’s indictment all over that story getting in his “digs” as we were all enemies back then already, not much has changed. Witherspoon poked at Sutton, of course, being under indictment and, as History sometime repeats itself, Sutton walked in and kicked major ass, making us all, including old Tommy Fat Boy, remember his considerable skill and undeniable courtroom presence.
Child abuse, child sexual abuse, well, we all hate it, but it seems that, unfortuately, these allegations are used as tools of revenge or attention at times. One thing for sure, Waco juries are smart, always have been, and they had no patience for this nine year old case.
When Vic Feazell was DA, child abuse allegations were so plentiful that Feazell was inundated with them, this was back in the eighties. The allegations usually were, and still are embarrassing, and earth shattering for all involved. Back then Feazell, who I can tell you agonized over what to do, and made the decision to utilize the only tool available, and, although not accepted in Court, Feazell would dismiss cases where a polygraph was given and the defendant passed by a qualified and accredited Polygraph examiner.
These cases are damned if you do and damned if you don’t for everyone involved, and you can bet everyone involved is truly glad it’s over.
Harry has no answers, but it must have been very exciting in the courtroom when this verdict was read.
A jury found a Waco man not guilty Thursday of a charge that he sexually assaulted a girl in 2014 when she was 8.
“We are saying this did not happen,” Fernando Rey Torres’ defense attorney, Seth Sutton, told the jury of nine men and three women while using nearly every minute of the hour Visiting Judge Roy Sparkman allotted in the 19th State District Court for his summation and closing arguments.
The jury deliberated for about three hours and returned a verdict that Torres, 37, is not guilty of first-degree felony aggravated sexual assault of a child.
Sutton said after the not guilty verdict that while this case has been pending for 8 years, he never doubted Torres.
“Fernando maintained his innocence the whole time,” Sutton said.
For the past 8 years Torres had supervised visits once per week with his biological son, Sutton said. Torres has not been able to go to large family functions because there were children there, and tremendous reputational damage comes with a charge like this, Sutton said.
“Fernando is relieved this part is over,” Sutton said. “He looks forward to building back his life, building back his reputation and finally enjoying a full father-son relationship.”
McLennan County Assistant District Attorney Will Hix said after the verdict that his office appreciates the jury’s decision.
“We appreciate … the courage the victim had to testify,” Hix said in a statement. “We are proud to have fought for her this week and we will continue to try challenging cases when the evidence supports doing so.”
In the state’s closing argument, prosecutor Kristen Duron reminded the jury how they saw a painfully shy high school girl testify about her allegations. Duron said experts from the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children validated the girl’s account during a 2017 forensic interview.
“You heard from the girl’s grandmother that she offered to tear up the note if it was untrue, or keep it,” Duron said of the initial note found under a dresser in the girl’s room that said Torres had touched her wrongly. “She wanted to keep it.”
Duron said the girl received counseling and inpatient mental health treatment following two suicide attempts and found it too painful to discuss the allegation against Torres with her therapist. She asked the jury to find him guilty.
The girl’s lack of talking about what she said Torres did to her with her therapist was just one of Sutton’s lines of attack against the state’s case.
“If the trauma of what she said Fernando did to her ran so deep, why did she not discuss it with her therapist?” Sutton said.
The girl told her therapist that in both suicide attempts she was not really trying to kill herself, she was trying to get attention, Sutton said. Surely, after the second suicide attempt, the girl and her mother would have made sure to talk about the root cause, Sutton said.
“In 12 sessions, she did not bring it up once,” Sutton told the jury of the girl not talking about Torres touching her.
Sutton also called into question the police investigation.
“The defendant walked into the police station and said I’m ready talk about what happened,” Sutton said.
Police never took a statement from Torres, he said.
“The detective owed a duty to the child to investigate her case,” Sutton said. “He didn’t do this.”
Sutton said the girl’s initial handwritten note was in effort to seek attention during a time when the family was under a great deal of stress.
A new baby was requiring kidney surgeries and Torres had to stay up at night with the baby to make sure the kidney bag was not accidentally removed, Sutton told the jury. Torres was working during the day and going to school in the evenings and the girl’s mother had switched to a night shift at her job.
Sutton said that the girl knew an accusation against Torres would bring attention to her. He also said even the girl’s own mother described her as manipulative.
“We’re not asking you to find my client guilty of a lesser charge,” Sutton said. “We’re telling you this did not happen.”