RIVERHEAD, N.Y. — A New York foster parent who took in more than 100 boys over two decades and was accused of sexually abusing some of them has been acquitted of all charges.
A Suffolk County jury returned the not-guilty verdicts Tuesday following seven days of deliberations.
Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, was acquitted on 17 counts of sex abuse and other charges.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota released a statement Tuesday sharing his disappointment regarding the verdict.
“For those discouraged by this outcome, it is important to guard against any chilling effect that might result; especially a reluctance to report abuse,” said Spota.
The DA says they will continue to “pursue justice in cases involving the sexual abuse of children which often means pursuing cases based upon the information from the victim of the abuse sometimes years after the crimes when limited corroborative evidence is still available.
Gonzales-Mugaburu’s attorney argued that the eight former foster children had lied about the abuse.
Prosecutors contended the crimes occurred between 1996 and 2016, the Associated Press reports. However, a news release from the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office Tuesday states the abuse occurred through 2015.
Regardless, it allegedly persisted for nearly two decades as Gonzales-Mugaburu ran a “therapeutic foster home for children who had intellectual disabilities or psychiatric issues,” according to the DA.
The children had mental, intellectual, emotional and behavioral issues, the AP reports.
If he had been convicted of the most serious charges, Gonzales-Mugaburu could have faced 25 years to life in prison.
Gonzales-Mugaburu was arrested in March of last year.
The case prompted a special grand jury report, obtained by the AP in February, finding “abysmal” communication between the state, New York City and Long Island agencies, and a private nonprofit that placed foster children in Gonzales-Mugaburu’s care.
Statistics from The Crime Victims Center report that children in foster care are 10 times more likely to be sexually victimized compared to children living with their parents.