A Texas cop accused of raping a teenage girl as other officers watched was found guilty last week.
But not of first-degree sexual assault as he was initially charged, which could have landed him in prison for 99 years, but of second-degree sexual assault, which could have landed him in prison for 20 years.
Instead, Erasmo Mata ended up with a four-year sentence.
Mata, who was working for the Pharr Police Department when the assaults took place, must also register as a sex offender as well as pay a $5,000 fine.
The prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Hope Palacios, stated:
“When you commit an offense like this, you don’t just affect one person. You affect all the members of this community. This defendant should be held at a higher standard. He took an oath to protect this community, and he has violated the same laws he swore to uphold.”
Mata raped an unnamed 17-year-old minor girl five times on different occasions in abandoned houses around the city of Pharr. Moreover, Officer Mata was on duty on all five occasions.
The sexual assaults occurred from July to October 2013 as other officers watched, according to a lawsuit the girl’s family filed.
Upon learning about the rapes, the victim’s parents filed a complaint with Pharr Police Chief Ruben Villescas. However, the Pharr Police Department never charged the officers with any wrong doing.
In advising the family not to hire an attorney – Chief Villescas told the family that he would handle everything.
The case was brought to the Texas Rangers to investigate the incident, who handed over the evidence to the District Attorneys office, who then charged the officer with felony first-degree sexual assault of a child.
The girl’s family filed a federal lawsuit with the Texas Southern District Court. The defendants named in the suit are the Pharr Police Department and Erasmo Mata.
Chief Villescas and The City of Pharr were eventually dropped from the lawsuit after a motion from the defense.
The lawsuit claims that the Pharr Police Department conducted a sloppy investigation by not collecting DNA from clothing and bedding– the young victim was never administered a rape kit either.
The suit also notes that other Pharr police officers’ stood watch by the abandoned houses while the rapes took place– those officers’ along with Mata were eventually terminated.
Pharr Police Department Attorney Richard Navarro said:
“Defendant Mata engaged in misconduct with Jane Doe sufficient to warrant his termination and sufficient to justify the submission of a criminal case for to the local Office of the District Attorney.”
The next scheduled court date for the federal civil lawsuit is in February 2016.