Supporters of two boys molested by their grandfather packed a Santa Barbara courtroom on Monday to see Manuel Munoz, 65, get sentenced to 75 years to life in prison for his crimes. In December, a jury found Munoz guilty on five charges against the victims, who were 5 and 11 years old at the time.
Crying as she spoke, the boys’ mother — Munoz’s daughter — directed her comments at her dad, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and keeping his gaze focused on the table in front of him. “How much I love somebody doesn’t mean I can always trust them,” the mom said.
She alluded to the divide the crimes have created in the family, with most of Munoz’s relatives siding with him, while she and the boys’ father’s side of the family believing them. “I will never regret standing up for my boys,” she continued, wiping back tears. “You had the ability to choose right from wrong.” Wrapping up her comments, the boys’ mother asked Judge Michael Carrozzo to impose the life sentence, “just like the sentence you’ve given my children,” she said to Munoz.
One of the victims’ aunts also talked, describing the “pain, disbelief, betrayal, and anguish” experienced by the entire family. She called Munoz a “horrible human being” and an “immoral human.” The aunt also asked Carrozzo to levy the strictest term on “the man they once called their grandfather.”
Between 2007 and 2009, Munoz molested the boys while he lived with them and their parents. In 2013, the boys told their parents what Munoz had done. Munoz was soon arrested in San Francisco, where he moved after leaving Santa Barbara.
Prosecutor Paula Waldman commended the victims for coming forward, their parents for their support, and the jurors, who she said “understood and looked beyond classic societal stereotypes” regarding how and when children report abuse. “We’re starting this process of educating society,” Waldman said, explaining that victims don’t always immediately tell their parents. “Definitely, justice was served.”
Munoz’s attorney, Adam Pearlman, who unsuccessfully lobbied to keep Munoz’s restitution payment under $10,000, said that his client “is very saddened by the verdict” and that “all of this brothers and sisters support him” as do his other daughter and grandchildren.
In handing down the sentence, Carrozzo called out those who may question the children’s allegations. “The defendant has been convicted and the children are telling the truth,” he said, sharing that the jury selection process — wherein many potential jurors said they had been victims of such abuse — revealed how “pervasive” the crime is. “It’s now time to support these boys and their future,” he concluded.
One of the grandsons — accompanied by family members and a crowd of supporters from the advocacy group Bikers Against Child Abuse — directed his remarks directly to Munoz. “Looking back, I thought to myself you were going to get away with it. You didn’t get away with it.” He told Munoz how he had contemplated suicide but has benefitted from therapy and the family members who have been there for him. “You didn’t win,” he said. “I’m still standing, I’m still strong, and I always will be.”