BOSTON — The state's appeals court upheld the convictions of a man found guilty of sexually assaulting and raping a Lawrence girl, 13, five years ago.
In November 2019, a jury found Gustavo Gonzalez Santos, now 53, guilty of rape of a child and indecent assault and battery on a child under age 14. He was sentenced to 11 to 12 years in state prison followed by three years of probation, according to a statement released by District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett's office.
On appeal, a defense attorney for Gonzalez Santos argued that prosecutors did not present any witnesses, physical, forensic or medical evidence, or expert testimony to corroborate the testimony of the victim and her testimony alone was not sufficient to support a conviction.
But the appeals court ruled otherwise.
"Surprisingly, the Commonwealth cites no case, nor have we found one, that simply states what we now hold: The sworn testimony of the victim of a sexual assault, including rape, is evidence of the facts asserted. The testifying victim is a witness. We reject the defendant's contention that corroborative, extrinsic, or forensic evidence, or expert or third-party witness testimony, is required to support a conviction of rape or sexual assault where the victim testified as a witness at the trial. Of course such evidence, if properly admitted, may corroborate the victim's testimony, but it is not required to sustain a conviction. Here, the victim testified to facts that constituted each element of the charged offenses. Her testimony, which the jury found to be credible, was sufficient, standing alone, to support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt as to each of the convictions," the court wrote in its decision.
“The idea that long infected our legal system that the victim's testimony in sexual assault and rape cases is less credible than the testimony of victims in cases involving other types of crimes –-an idea that reflected nothing more than sexism and an unwillingness on the part of our courts to treat sexual crimes as the gravely serious matter that they are -– has been rejected both by statute and by common law," according to the decision.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Erin Bellavia and Assistant District Attorney Kayla Johnson represented the Commonwealth before the Appeals Court.
Blodgett, in the statement, applauded the appeals court for its decision. He said the court clearly articulated "the basic concept that a rape victim is entitled to the same consideration as other crime victims in terms of credibility."
"This decision not only upholds this defendant's convictions, but also strongly affirms that the testimony of sexual assault victim can be sufficient evidence of the facts asserted at trial. Additional corroborative evidence or expert testimony is not required to support the testimony of the victim. It is for the jury to determine the credibility of that testimony," Blodgett said.