Molester gets 13 years in prison
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING - A man convicted of molesting several Lake Placid children has been sentenced to 13 years in Florida prison.
Published: July 15, 2012
Published: July 15, 2012
On Dec. 12, 2011, Orestes Gonzalez pleaded guilty before Circuit Court Judge Angela Cowden to five counts of lewd molestation and lewd conduct. However, six weeks later, Tampa defense attorney Jeff Quisenberry suggested that the 79-year-old defendant had memory trouble and wasn't competent to be sentenced.
After examinations by two psychiatrists, sentencing was put off several more times, but on July 6, Cowden ruled that Gonzalez would serve five 13-year terms concurrently. However, it would be split between imprisonment and 15 years of probation.
Before he is released from prison — which may never happen because of his advanced age — Gonzalez also has to pay $5,000 in fines, $2,468 in court costs, a $500 prosecution fee, $302 in victim and sexual battery court fees, and $1,500 in inventory costs to the Highlands County Sheriff's Office. He also would have to wear an electronic monitoring device during probation and would be subject to warrantless searches. He would have no contact with the victims.
Gonzalez is also the man at the heart of a lawsuit filed in May against the Highlands County school board. The suit claimed that Lake Country Elementary School after-care program employee Maria Gonzalez, 46, gave Gonzales, her husband, unsupervised access to children despite prior sexual abuse allegations.
He was arrested in February 2011 after being accused of molesting three children 7 to 9 years of age at Lake Country Elementary's after-school program.
Maria Gonzalez was accused of trying to get one of the parents to lie and charged with witness tampering, Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton said at the time. The mother of one of the children said Maria Gonzalez instructed her on what to say and not say if she were contacted by law enforcement, Benton said.
Principal Majel Bowerman said the next day that Maria Gonzalez was no longer on staff. Later, Bowerman also resigned.
However, victims and parents standing outside the courtroom in January said school authorities had known about Orestes Gonzalez for more than 20 years.
The father of one of the victims said a court report would be released after Gonzalez was sentenced that would show a long history of molestation.
"This is more common than people like to think," said the mother of another victim. When the Gonzalezes were arrested last year, many of those adult victims came forward, she said.
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