A U.S. Army sergeant will spend the rest of his life behind bars following his conviction of sexually abusing several young girls, despite his attorney comparing her client’s accusers to the women accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, according to reports.
Martin Balleza, of Texas, was sentenced to 99 years with no chance of parole on a count of continuous sexual abuse of a child, as well as 10 years for sexual assault of a child, to be served consecutively, the San Antonio Express-News reported.
Balleza was accused of sexually assaulting young female relatives, several of whom testified to the abuses they suffered at his hands.
One 9-year-old girl described being forced to perform and receive oral sex from Balleza, telling the jury that “he said, 'Don’t tell my parents or else he’d get in trouble,” the Express-News reported. She was 7 at the time.
An 11-year-old girl testified that Balleza touched her inappropriately three times when she was at his home. She was 9 at the time.
“It made me feel scared,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do.”
A 16-year-old said she was visiting Balleza overnight when he went into her room while she was sleeping, spreading her legs and touching her over her clothes before fondling her.
“I kept resisting,” said the girl, who was 14 at the time of the incident. She noted she was able to get away from him and went into another room of the house.
One of Balleza’s victims reported him to authorities in February 2016, prompting an investigation.
Balleza at one point attempted suicide and was hospitalized after one of his victims came forward.
His brother, Steven Balleza, testified that, while recovering at the hospital, Balleza said he “hurt and touched” young girls because he wasn’t getting enough attention from his wife, the Express-News reported. The couple is now estranged.
Balleza was an active duty staff sergeant at the time of the incidents. He was assigned to the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.
He was a decorated serviceman, receiving numerous medals of commendation since joining the Army in 1997. He worked as a chemical operations specialist and had been deployed three times to Afghanistan and once to Iraq, officials said.
Balleza's attorney, Monica E. Guerrero, pointed to his service as proof of his character, saying, "This guy gave up his life to go to Iraq, to Afghanistan. He’s a decorated sergeant. You’re talking about taking away someone’s liberty."
She argued that in 2018, anything goes to ruin a person’s reputation and career and referenced the sexual assault and misconduct allegations made by women against Kavanaugh after President Trump nominated him for the U.S. Supreme Court, the Express-News reported.
“They have nothing," Guerrero said. "No medical evidence, no physical evidence, nothing. Give me a break."
Saying “we need proof,” Guerrero told the jury the state’s case came down to his word versus the children’s.
“Supreme Court? Kavanaugh? Really?" prosecutor Daryl Harris reportedly told the jury in his closing rebuttal. “His military service does not mitigate what he did; his service didn’t mean he’s telling the truth."
Harris referenced Balleza’s admission to his brother, saying “that [confession] was his only attempt at being decent.
"He says everybody is lying," he continued. "Real men don’t hide behind children."