Jury returns mixed verdict in child molesting trial
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent October 31, 2012 7:34PM
Updated: December 2, 2012 2:16PM
VALPARAISO — Jurors returned a mixed verdict in the trial of a former Porter County man on five felony counts of child molesting.
The 12-member jury found Daniel Aguilar III, 33, of San Diego guilty of two Class C felony child molesting charges, which carry sentences of two to eight years in prison each, but not guilty of the three more serious Class A felony child molesting charges, which would have meant prison sentences of 20 to 50 years each.
He’s scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 30.
The accusations against Aguilar came from two sisters in 2009, three years after Aguilar had moved out of the house he shared with their mother, and then from a friend of theirs.
The girls told police that the molestations happened between 1999 and 2006 and began when each of the sisters reached 6 years old, but it started with the friend during visits when she was about 11.
The mother went to police with the accusations after one of the daughters wrote a letter about what happened, even though the girls agreed not to talk about it until they were adults.
The daughter said she wrote the letter after hearing someone who spoke at church about being strong and coming forward in a similar situation.
Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Buitendorp said in her closing arguments that the girls kept quiet because while their mother was strict, Aguilar bought them candy, took them to movies, let them have friends over and gave them money.
“They did it because he was the good guy. He was the lenient one,” Buitendorp said.
Defense attorney Jennifer Culotta said the girls conspired and that the letter seemed more the response to a fight over boyfriends, that its high level of writing didn’t match other writing by the then-12-year-old and that her expert said the child hadn’t written it.
The three girls agreed on some points, but when asked about details, their stories fell apart, with one saying it always involved all three girls with Aguilar but one girl saying it never involved all three, Culotta said.
They also excessively used vague terms like “weird” and “stuff” during testimony instead of descriptive terms, she said.
Buitendorp said the girls had no reason to conspire against Aguilar three years later and that they couldn’t have conspired with the friend because they’d lost track of each other.
Aguilar had waived extradition and drove to Porter County to stand trial.