AP — A foster father accused of sexually abusing six of the more than 100 boys he cared for over two decades was acquitted Tuesday of all charges against him.
The verdict came on the seventh day of jury deliberations in a case that put a national focus on the foster care system.
Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, was cleared of 17 counts involving abuse of the children. Many of the boys had mental, intellectual, emotional and behavioral issues.
One mentally challenged man testified that Gonzales-Mugaburu molested him for about three years beginning when he was 10. The man, now 21, said it left him confused.
Gonzales-Mugaburu’s attorney, Donald Mates, had argued that the accusers had concocted stories of abuse.
“It’s the quality of the evidence, not the quantity of the evidence, you should be focusing on,” Mates told jurors.
Gonzales-Mugaburu did not testify in his own defense.
Jury foreman Tim Carney said he voted not guilty on all counts from the beginning because there were too many holes in the prosecution’s case.
“I could not put a man away for the rest of his life on what they gave us — the evidence they produced,” Carney said.
Newsday reported that Carney said he believed the testimony of some of the accusers, but the prosecution did not introduce evidence to support those accounts.
Prosecutors had painted the Ridge man as a monster and blamed the foster care system for lax oversight at his suburban Long Island home.
An 83-page report released by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota this year contended systemic failures allowed Gonzales-Mugaburu to take in more than 100 children over 20 years. It noted that he had been the subject of 18 child abuse investigations. None of those investigations led to criminal charges until his arrest in January 2016. He has been held without bail since.
Mates said he disagreed with the findings in the report. There never was any reason for the agencies to fail to uncover abuse because, he said, it never happened.
Mates also said that at least some of the accusers had a financial reason to see Gonzales-Mugaburu convicted because they have filed lawsuits against an agency that placed them in his home.
Prosecutors did not immediately comment on the verdict.
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