Burnet man sentenced in sex assault

Blaming the victim and methamphetamine addiction did not sway a Burnet County jury that returned a guilty verdict in the trial of Jesus Jose “Joey” Lacer on Jan. 11 in the court of 33rd District Judge Allan Garrett. It was a case that District Attorney Sonny McAfee held up as a triumph in the recovery of the victim. Lacer was convicted of Assault Family Violence by Impeding Breath (choking) and Sexual Assault and assessed a 10-years prison sentence for the choking case, the maximum prison term, and 12 years for the sexual assault. The maximum potential sentence for sexual assault is 20 years. Lacer, 35, of Marble Falls was convicted of choking his girlfriend. The couple had lived together for 13 years, on and off, and had two children together. The incidents came to light when Child Protective Services (CPS) began investigating possible neglect of the children in May 2015. CPS Investigator Kristin Cantu, a former Dallas police officer, interviewed the children and observed bruises on the mother’s face, arms and ribs. Testimony at trial reflected that, although Cantu was responsible for investigating the welfare of the children, she also questioned the mother about her possible abuse. Cantu learned from her and from the children that Lacer had slapped, spit on, and stomped on the victim as well as choking her. Evidence at trial revealed that, although the victim tried to get the children to go to another room at the motel during the assault, Lacer prevented them from leaving while the beating occurred. The mother stayed in touch with Cantu during the CPS investigation and the two spoke at a subsequent hearing on temporary custody of the children. Just prior to that hearing, the victim confided in Cantu that she had also been sexually assaulted by Lacer on the same day as the beating but the sexual assault occurred later in the evening. On Cantu's advice, she reported everything to the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office. Cantu even escorted her from the hearing directly to the sheriff’s office for an interview with Deputy Joe Saldivar. The statement from that interview initiated the investigation that eventually led Lacer's arrest. Assistant District Attorney Amber Shanafelt prosecuted the case along with McAfee and Austin Shell presented Lacer's defense. Evidence at trial showed, at the time of the Assault Family Violence and Sexual Assault, both Lacer and the victim were addicted to methamphetamine. Lacer blamed his violence on methamphetamine and the victim. He claimed the bruises on the victim’s side were caused as he tripped over her as she lay on the floor, rather than by him stomping her. He claimed the bruises on her face were caused by the victim striking herself, and the bruises on her arms were from his taking her by the arms to lift her out of his way as he left the motel. Lacer conceded he had sex with the victim but claimed the sex was consensual and even sought by the victim, rather than being forced. The defense alleged the victim’s disclosure of the sexual assault was fabricated to affect the child custody case filed by CPS. The victim, however, testified her rights to her children depended on what she did in the future to change, and not what Lacer had done or would do in the future. The jury deliberated approximately four hours and rejected Lacer’s version of events by finding him guilty of both counts in the indictment. Judge Allan Garrett sentenced the defendant in accordance with the verdict and immediately remanded Lacer to the custody of the Burnet County Sheriff for transport to Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Corrections Division to serve his sentences. DA McAfee said while the lengths of the sentences were gratifying, that was not the greatest significance of these verdicts. “This trial brings to light the plight of many women and children who are victims of abuse,” he said. It does not matter whether the abuse is fueled by drugs or just caused by cruel people. There is a problem in every county of this state and throughout the country with family violence that goes undetected or undeterred.” “The most satisfying part of this investigation and prosecution was in learning the rest of the story of this victim and her children,” McAfee continued. “In the last 20 months the victim has moved away from this area and has been successful in staying off drugs completely, becoming employed, attending classes and participating in therapy with her children. Her children have gone from living in motel to motel in drug infested areas, to a stable home environment and making straight A’s in school.” “I am pleased this woman had the strength to say something about the violence and then take positive steps toward a normal productive life for her and those wonderful kids,” added the DA. “This is a success story that we rarely get to see when methamphetamine and violence are involved.”

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