Testimony Concludes In Cuello Case - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/22/03 - Tyler

Testimony Concludes In Cuello Case

The fate of a former Tyler Catholic priest will soon be in the hands of a jury. 40-year-old Gustavo Cuello pled guilty on October 10th, to aggravated sexual assault of a child. At that time, Judge Cynthia Kent sentenced Cuello to 50 years in prison, making him eligible for parole after 25 years. Cuello rejected the sentence, requesting instead a jury decide his sentence. Both prosecution and defense wrapped up testimony on day two today of the punishment trial. The defense concluded it's case today by calling four Our Lady Of Guadalupe Church members, where Cuello was the pastor. One after another, the church members defended their priest, while placing at least half of the blame on the victim. They talked about how flirtatious she was, and how mature she was for her age.

Assistant District Attorney Matt Bingham asked one of the victims peers, "the fact that he's a child molester is not enough for you to stop attending his church service, would it?"

"No," said Anabel Flores, "because I don't consider him a child molester. By the law, yes. But she had fault too, and he has said his part of the guilt, but she hasn't. She did it because she wanted to."

One church member went as far as to blame both the victim and her parents. Several of the church members referred to the sexual relationship's as Cuello's "error".

The victim was recalled today to testify about a calendar Cuello kept on which he tracked their sexual experiences.

"It would say what happened that day and what was done," said the victim. "So, every time there was activity going on, it was written down on the calendar."

Prosecutors closed out their case with marriage and family therapist Dr. Gayle Burress. She talked about "grooming", in which sex offenders mold, or prepare their victims for sexual abuse. She testified Cuello was a "textbook case". In cross examination by the defense, Burress admitted spending only about six hours reviewing the case, having just received it last night at 9:15. She also admitted having not interviewed the victim or Cuello. One of her more powerful statements was, "you can't get back innocence."

The defense once again pointed out that in other countries it is acceptable to have a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old. Bingham quickly countered by saying, "we're not in another country."

Both the defense and the prosecution rested today. Closing arguments will begin tomorrow morning at 10:00. Cuello faces the possibility of life in prison.

Kevin Berns reporting.

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