A jury on Wednesday found Manuel Munoz, 65, guilty on five counts of forcible child molestation against two of his grandsons, crimes for which he could be sentenced to 75 years to life in prison. The trial against Munoz — in custody since his arrest in late 2013 — started in late October and ended last Friday, with the jurors taking five days to deliberate. He will be sentenced in January.
Between 2007 and 2009, Munoz lived with his grandsons — who were 5-6 and 10-11 years old at the time — and their parents; the boys’ mother is Munoz’s daughter. In 2013, said prosecutor Paula Waldman, the boys — now 12 years old and 18 years old — spoke up about their grandfather’s crimes against them. Munoz was arrested later that year in San Francisco, where he moved after living in Santa Barbara.
The trial against Munoz divided the family, and crying could be heard from both sides of the courtroom when the verdict was read on Wednesday. The boys’ parents, sibling, and the entirety of their father’s side of the family supported them, but some on the mother’s side didn’t believe their claims, Waldman said. Munoz’s attorney, Adam Pearlman, said his client was “disappointed” and didn’t agree with the jury’s conclusion, but that he respected it.
Waldman commended the jurors for their work. “The jury was able to look beyond the common misperceptions that can occur in these cases and know that, just because a victim doesn’t report until years later, and just because a victim’s disclosure comes out in bits and pieces, doesn’t mean that the victim was not molested.”
The boys now “feel a huge sense of relief,” Waldman continued. “I am very proud of the bravery of both victims for being willing to testify about such private and horrible acts, and I am grateful that the victims’ parents trusted me and the criminal justice system and allowed their children to testify,” she said. “The defendant took the stand and denied everything, but still the jury could sort through his lies and ensure that justice was served.”