After a protracted two-and-a-half-year battle in Taos District Court, the case against David W. Lewis, a Carson man charged with four counts of sexual penetration of a minor, came to its conclusion Thursday afternoon (Nov. 2) – with a jury finding the defendant guilty on all counts.
"The only outcome I could really wish for is that everybody knows who he is," the now 17-year-old female victim said outside the courtroom just before the verdict was read. "I'll never be happy, but as long as other people know who he is and know not to let other kids around him, then that's enough for me."
She said she was introduced to Lewis at an early age in Carson, a cloistered rural community west of Taos.
According to the jury's determination on Thursday, Lewis abused the victim from the age of six to 14.
The victim said she had become friends with Lewis' children. Growing up, her mother experienced her own, personal instability due to a mental disorder. The victim's biological father was absent, and so Lewis quickly became the major patriarch in the victim's life.
Lewis abused her for the last time around three years ago, she said. When her mother – whom the victim said did not then have knowledge of the abuse – told her to stay at Lewis' home shortly thereafter, the victim attempted to kill herself. "I had been doing everything I could to avoid [Lewis]," she said. "When I was in the ER, my mom asked me, 'Why?' I wrote it down on a piece of paper."
Lewis was indicted on four counts of criminal sexual penetration of a minor in 2015 – two first-degree felony counts and two second-degree felony counts. The latter specify the use of force or coercion.
Chief Deputy Ron Olsen said the trial date was pushed several times over the past two years partly due to the "complexity" of the case. He noted numerous witness subpeonas that were filed – some of which required individuals, including Lewis, to travel from outside New Mexico.
The date was last pushed in September, and began Tuesday morning (Oct. 31), when defense attorney Stephen D. Aarons and Tim Hasson, an attorney with the Eighth Judicial District Attorney's Office, gave opening statements to an audience of more than 20 people. Most had gathered opposite an empty row of benches behind Lewis, who wore a suit jacket and watched the trial unfold from behind a pair of square reading glasses.
Aarons and Hasson sparred over key pieces of evidence throughout the three-day trial, calling more than a half-dozen witnesses to testify before Judge Emilio Chavez. The judge had to stop the trial at least once to address an emotionable audience, which seemed to fear that the jury would not be swayed by Hasson's prosecution.
"This is my case," Hasson would remind the audience after an outburst from one audience member, who accused him of "throwing the case."
One of the most vocal courtgoers, Christina Gonzalez, also lives on the Taos mesa and has served as an unofficial advocate for the victim. She said she believed that Hasson had neither gathered enough evidence for the case nor delivered a sufficiently compelling closing statement to convict, she said.
When a juror finally read the verdict late Thursday afternoon, a kind of stunned silence fell over the assembly, which seemed to take a few minutes to absorb the victory.
"This community has turned against me," Lewis said during a recess.
He maintains that he never committed a crime.
A sentencing hearing will be set for a later date.
For more information on this story, pick up the Nov. 9 edition of The Taos News.