Child molester guilty
Editor’s note: The molestation trial of Luis Ponce includes material presented in court that is deeply disturbing, and The Union advises caution in the reading of this story.
A jury found Luis Ponce Jr. guilty Wednesday of 16 child molestation charges, securing the likelihood the sexual predator will go to prison for a very long time – perhaps the rest of his life.
Jurors decided Ponce was guilty as charged on 14 counts while they convicted him on lesser charges on two additional counts against him.
The decision would not affect sentencing, officials said, because eight of the charges already carry a sentence of 15 years to life in prison. A judge has the option of ordering Ponce to serve the sentences consecutively.
“I’ve seen a lot of things in my career,” said juror and firefighter Clark Walker, 58. “But I haven’t seen anything like this.”
Ponce videotaped himself molesting two little girls. One child was between 12 and 18 months old and the other was between 2 and 3 years old at the time the footage was recorded about six years ago.
Five clips from the tapes were presented in court last week, and Walker said jurors had to watch part of the footage three more times during deliberations to reach a decision.
“There was some emotion involved,” Walker said.
Nevada County Superior Court Judge Ersel Edwards thanked the jury for its time and recommended members get counseling if they needed it.
“This has been a very difficult case,” Edwards said. “I’ve never seen anything as graphically presented in court as this. It was disturbing and jolting.”
Nevada County Sheriff Sgt. Jeff Pettitt, lead investigator on the case, said the verdict was fair.
“I’m relieved it’s over,” Pettitt said. “I’m devastated for the victims.”
Ponce was arrested on Jan. 26, 2006, after police searched his work and home, finding a mountain of evidence against him.
Ponce’s ex-wife Katheryn Kray filed a restraining order against Ponce in February 2006 and filed for divorce in March 2006.
She was not present in the courtroom for Wednesday’s verdict.
The couple had been married for 18 years when Ponce was arrested. The couple had six adopted children, three boys and three girls, ages 7 through 17.
Kray testified in court that she knew nothing of Ponce’s criminal acts. The first she heard of it, she said, was the day police raided her house to search for evidence against Ponce.
The original charges against Ponce include:
• Eight counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child involving oral copulation. Jurors found him guilty.
• One count of aggravated sexual assault of a child. Jurors found him guilty.
• One count of a lewd or lascivious act upon a child. Jurors found him guilty.
• Three counts of a forcible lewd or lascivious act upon a child. He was found guilty of one of these charges. Two charges were reduced to a lewd or lascivious act upon a child with substantial sexual conduct, and jurors found him guilty.
• Three counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object when the victim is unconscious of the nature of the act. Jurors found him guilty.
Ponce is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. July 9 in Nevada County Superior Court.
To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4236.
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