Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Molester loses appeal

A Stock Island man who fondled a 12-year-old girl and was sentenced to more than four years in prison last year has lost his appeal, according to court records.

Benito Lopez Gonzalez, 30, of the 6500 block of Maloney Avenue, was sentenced to four years and three months in state prison following his April 19, 2013, conviction for second-degree felony lewd and lascivious molestation.

Gonzalez argued before the Florida Third District Court of Appeal that his conviction should be reversed because one juror who told the court she had been the victim of a similar crime was allowed to sit on the jury, records state.

"The trial court correctly noted that there is no case law holding that a juror is automatically disqualified from serving if he or she had been the victim of a similar offense as the one being tried and therefore denied the challenge," the Third DCA ruled.

The ruling also stated: "There was no indication that (the juror) would be unfair or biased, and the trial court did not commit error in finding no cause to strike (the juror) from the panel."

The case was unique in that the victim's mother testified on behalf of the defendant during the two-day trial, and she said Gonzalez is innocent, prosecutors said.

The mother is in a relationship with Gonzalez.

The girl told a friend at school, and the friend persuaded her to report it to school authorities, who then alerted the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, according to incident reports.

Gonzalez will also be registered as a sex offender upon his release.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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