Man guilty of 2 lesser felonies in Portage molest case

2012-10-31T19:45:00Z 2012-11-01T18:43:08Z Man guilty of 2 lesser felonies in Portage molest caseBob Kasarda, (219) 548-4345
October 31, 2012 7:45 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | A jury found Daniel Aguilar III guilty Wednesday on two of five child molesting felonies he was facing.

Aguilar, 38, was cleared on the three most serious charges.

He was taken into custody Wednesday night and faces sentencing Nov. 30. The jury deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours.

Aguilar declined to take the witness stand earlier Wednesday to defend himself against charges of molesting three young girls.

Defense attorney Jennifer Culotta told jurors shortly before they began deliberating that the girls made up the accusations.

"We have a tangled web of lies perpetrated by three best friends," Culotta said.

Aguilar has been accused of molesting the girls between 1999 and 2006 in Portage. He had faced three Class A felonies, which were dropped, and two Class C felonies of child molesting. Each Class A felony count would have carried a potential prison sentence of between 20 and 50 years behind bars.

Culotta used large pieces of paper on an easel to list for jurors the elements she believes the girls agreed to stick to with their stories. She questioned each element, such as the number of incidents and the claim the girls, who were friends and/or sisters, did not talk to one another about the abuse.

Culotta also questioned the legitimacy of a letter one of the girls said she wrote to her mother revealing the abuse three years after it had ended.

"This doesn't look like a letter written by a 12-year-old," Culotta said.

Deputy Prosecutor Rebecca Buitendorp defended the girls to the jurors, saying differences in their stories are the result of varying perceptions. Each girls is coping with the abuse differently — one is emotional, one is detached and the third is angry, she said.

Buitendorp said there is no doubt one of the girls wrote the letter to her mother.

"It's a red herring on behalf of the defense," she said of the challenge to the letter.

Culotta wrapped up her case by again telling jurors that Aguilar was living in California when the allegations surfaced and he responded by driving back to the area.


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