Felony Sex Trial Ends With Misdemeanor Plea

By: Tyler Murphy

Felony sex trial ends with misdemeanor plea

NORWICH – A Bainbridge man on trial for a felony sex crime took a plea to a non-sex related misdemeanor after over four hours of testimony before a jury Thursday.

Ottoniel Gonzalez, 35, pleaded guilty to unlawfully dealing with a child in a plea arraignment that would sentence him to 3 years probation. Had he taken his chances with a jury, he faced a maximum sentence of 7 years in state prison if convicted of the top charge against him.

“Given the prospect of going to prison, it seemed like a good decision to Mr. Gonzalez,” said his defense attorney, Joseph A. Ermeti of Sydney.

When the trial began at 9 a.m. Thursday, Gonzalez faced a top count of first degree sexual abuse. He was accused by an 18-year-old Bainbridge girl of sexual molesting her after she admittedly passed out intoxicated in the defendant’s living room during a graduation party for the daughter of his live-in girlfriend on July 16, 2007.

However, the conclusion of yesterday’s proceedings ended with Gonzalez only admitting he gave the girl alcohol while at the party, explained Ermeti. The conviction is not a sex-related offense.

“The victim in the case did a great job testifying and coming forward, on multiple occasions, to ensure that the offense was properly prosecuted and only after consultation with the victim and her parents did we consider accepting the plea to unlawfully dealing with a child,” said District Attorney Joseph A. McBride.

The victim was the first witness called by the prosecution in the case, which the police investigator in charge said lacked any physical evidence.

New York State Police Investigator Jamie Bell took the stand for the prosecution and on cross-examination was asked by Ermeti, “You would agree with me there is no physical evidence in the case?” Bell responded “yes” but did say that there was still “evidence of a crime.”

Ermeti was also fast to point out to the jury, in an intense cross-examination of the alleged victim, that there were no witnesses to the crime. He claimed his client was never even alone with the teen.

“Basically the trial will boil down to his word against hers,” said Ermeti in his opening statement.



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