VALPARAISO | A Hobart man was found guilty of child molestation Wednesday, just seven months after a separate molestation trial of his ended in a hung jury.
A Porter County jury deliberated less than two hours Wednesday before finding Arthur Gutierrez guilty of the Class A felony.
The charge carries a potential sentence of 20 to 50 years behind bars. He will be sentenced April 19.
Earlier Wednesday, Gutierrez took the witness stand and told jurors he did not touch a young girl inappropriately.
After describing the turbulent relationship he had with the girl's family, Gutierrez said the girl was forced by the group to make a false accusation.
"She didn't have a choice," he said, "the way that family is."
The girl, who is now 9, told jurors Tuesday that Gutierrez molested her on several occasions from when she was 4 until her aunt asked her about it at the age of 7.
The girl said Gutierrez, who is now 33, rubbed himself on her front and backside and had her use her mouth and hands on him.
When asked by a juror Wednesday why he opted to leave the courtroom during the girl's testimony if he posed no threat to the child, Gutierrez said, "to make it easy. It's not her fault."
Harper told the jury during opening arguments Tuesday that after questioning the girl about potential abuse for a year, her aunt decided on the day in question she was going to force an answer.
"She decided to crack her," Harper said.
Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Buitendorp told jurors the girl began acting out inappropriately with other children, including asking boys to pull their pants down.
The abuse reportedly occurred between 2007 and 2010 in Liberty Township.
Gutierrez had been tried in August for molesting a different child and the case resulted in a hung jury. The jury in the August trial split 11-1 in favor of a not guilty verdict.