By Per Peterson
MARSHALL - After more than 6 1/2 hours of deliberation Friday, a jury found Cottonwood resident Gerald Gould guilty on five of seven charges of criminal sexual conduct. The verdict was handed in about 5:30 p.m. in Lyon County District Court.
The jury convicted Gould, 69, of one count of first degree criminal sexual conduct and all four counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct. He was found not guilty on the other two first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges.
Last fall, a complaint had charged Gould with sexually abusing two girls under the age of 16 in Lyon County between 2000 and 2008.
Friday was the third day of the trial following more than a day of testimony from witnesses, including the two victims and Gould himself. After closing arguments were given by attorneys for the prosecution and defense, jurors began deliberations around 10:30 a.m. Friday.
A sentencing hearing for Gould was scheduled for sometime in the next 60 days. First degree criminal sexual conduct charges carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, a $40,000 fine, or both. Second degree criminal sexual conduct carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, a $30,000 fine, or both.
Gould, 69, faced three counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct and four counts of second degree criminal sexual conduct.
The final jury consisted of three women and nine men. A female alternate was excused before the jury went into deliberations.
Lyon County Attorney Rick Maes used the first part of his closing argument Friday morning to lay out a timeframe of the incidents. He said the two most time consuming elements for the jury to deal with would be the period of time in which the incidents took place and the question of whether or not sexual penetration occurred.
"The girls said there was (sexual penetration), the defendant said he didn't do it," Maes said. "You need to look at the evidence to determine the credibility and believability of the witnesses in this case."
Maes reminded the jury how difficult it was for the young victims to provide testimony in this case and how one of the girls testified that contact with the defendant started out as kissing, and eventually escalated to touching and then to penetration.
He told the jury the girls were subject to a "grooming process" by Gould intended to keep them from reporting any abuse. That "grooming process," he said, grew to the point where the girls were told to stay quiet or the defendant would go to jail.
Once that process starts, he said, it would be harder and harder for the girls to come forward.
Maes spoke about testimony Thursday from the counselor who had diagnosed one of the girls with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and how that diagnosis was reached. The counselor had testified that the PTSD was a result of sexual abuse suffered over the years.
Another counselor who testified Thursday, Maes reminded the jury, explained why victims of sexual abuse often don't report the abuse right away and how children under 10 can't comprehend what happened when a sexual act occurs. That counselor, Maes said, had no prior knowledge of this particular case.
Defense attorney Cecil Naatz described criminal sexual conduct as a "charge easily made, hard to prove, yet harder to disprove. That's hard to prove when there's no physical evidence and harder to disprove. How do you prove you didn't do something?" he said. Naatz described the younger girl's actions as a way to get attention.
"These were kids acting out on each other, and protecting each other," Naatz said in his closing.
Naatz also said the children had been coached and prepared for statements they made to law enforcement when the investigation started.
He said one of the girls spent time reading things on the Internet about similar cases "and now she testifies and we're supposed to judge her credibility after she's prepared for a year."
Naatz described Gould as a simple man, a man of few words and a hard worker. He also traced Gould's recent medical history that includes a diagnosis of kidney cancer in 1993, three heart attacks in 1997 and dealing with bladder cancer from 2001-03.
He also said one of the state's own witnesses previously testified Gould was impotent. In rebuttal, Maes said that was irrelevant.