HOUSTON, TEXAS – Abraham Joseph struggled to find anything to say before a judge on Monday affirmed the verdict of two life sentences.
Braced stoicism melted from his face as he started to talk then stopped. The former Houston Police Department officer looked down, shaking his head and began to cry.
He was taken into custody without another chance to hold his 1-year-old daughter, who was often seen offering high fives to strangers outside the courtroom.
Joseph, 28, was convicted Thursday of two counts of aggravated sexual assault for raping a cantina waitress while on duty in January 2011. He’ll be eligible for parole after 30 years.
The waitress, 37, testified that Joseph detained her at 3 a.m. outside the cantina where she worked, put her in his patrol car, took her to a dark park and raped her while she was handcuffed. She alleges that Joseph assaulted her on the trunk of his police cruiser.
Friends and family, who had hoped for leniency, were disappointed by the decision. Joseph told the judge he plans to appeal.
Both the prosecution and the defense say the tipping point for the jury likely was testimony from four other women who say Joseph attacked them over a four-month period in late 2010 and early 2011.
All worked at nightclubs in the southwest Houston neighborhood Joseph patrolled, and all live in the U.S. illegally, making them part of what the prosecution called “the perfect pool of victims.”
Defense attorney Nicole DeBorde, who had asked the jury to consider community supervision, said she was disappointed with the decision.
“I’m not surprised with sentence given the accusations made in the punishment phase,” DeBorde said.
She insisted from the beginning that Joseph’s sexual encounter with his accuser was consensual.
Prosecutor Heyward Carter said the evidence gathered by HPD’s sex crimes unit left Joseph with few options for defense.
“There was only one thing he could say because they were so proactive,” Carter said.
Carter and fellow prosecutor Eric Bily said the city owed thanks to the victim who had the courage to come forward and move ahead with a trial that had her on the stand for three days.
“Without her, who would know the extent of the damage to this city?” Carter said.