ECB Publishing, Inc.
A 46-year-old man charged with lewd and lascivious battery was sentenced to 10 years in prison last week.
Samuel Gonzales, of Greenville, entered a plea of no contest to a second-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Gonzales entered his plea to the charge on Monday, Feb. 25, his second time before the judge on the negotiated plea in 14 days.
Circuit Court Judge Dawn Caloca-Johnson accepted the plea, adjudicated Gonzales guilty, and sentenced him to 120 months with the Department of Corrections, to be followed by five years of sex offender probation, which carries special conditions. Gonzales will also be designated as a sex offender.
The judge warned him that he was to have no contact with the victim upon release from prison. She also advised him that if he wasn't a U.S. citizen, he was subject to deportation upon completion of his sentence.
Gonzales indicated through an interpreter that he understood the conditions and ramifications of his plea and still wished to pursue the agreement.
Prior to the pronouncement of the sentence, the victim's mother addressed the court briefly. Like the defendant, her comments had be translated by the interpreter.
The woman said in Spanish that it was important to her to say what she was going to say. She said God had given her the strength and the clarity to see the situation differently and forgive the person.
“When we understand our errors and accept them, we receive strength and fortitude to face other things in the future,” the woman said, adding that what could have destroyed her had instead made her stronger. She hadn't let go of the matter, she said, because her safety and the safety of her child was important to her.
Gonzales was initially set to enter his plea on Feb. 11. Standing before the judge at that time, however, he showed hesitancy when responding to certain of the judge's standard questions, causing her to question if he was really prepared to enter a plea. In the end, the judge passed on the agreement, asking Assistant Public Defender Davis Revell, the court-appointed counsel, to meet with his client again and ensure that the latter wanted to proceed with the plea.
On Monday, Revell assured the court that Gonzales' questions had been answered and that he was ready to proceed with the plea.
Gonzales was credited with 829 days served in the county jail, which he acquired since his arrest on Nov. 19, 2016.
Assistant State Attorney Andrew Deneen prosecuted the case.