A Montezuma County judge on Wednesday convicted a 15-year-old boy of sexually assaulting his 7-year-old stepsister.
District Court Judge Douglas Walker issued the guilty verdict in the bench trial, which started March 6. No jury was seated in the case because the defendant was a minor.
The boy was found guilty of three juvenile felony charges of sexual assault on a child, including assault from a position of trust and assault as a pattern of abuse. His sentencing was set for May.
The trial continued through March 9, but Walker did not issue the verdict until Wednesday, March 15. He said he had thought long and hard about the case.
“I struggled with this case,” the judge said. “It does not come lightly to me.”
He came out of the case with even more respect for the job the courts ask juries to do, Walker added.
The alleged assaults took place between March 2013 and February 2016, while the defendant’s four siblings and step-siblings were living in the same Dolores apartment, according to testimony. At least five different assaults were alleged, Defense Attorney Sara Hildebrand said in her closing statement on March 9.
In an email statement, District Attorney Will Furse said the verdict was appropriate.
“This has been a difficult year for both families and my heart goes out to them,” he said. “I believe the Judge’s decision was legally sound and as this is a juvenile delinquency matter, my obligation now is to seek a sentence that serves the best interests of the juvenile — specifically, one that is rehabilitative and focused on preventing future criminality.”