Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Defendant Sentences Himself to Death


Last week, three CourtWatchers monitored the three day trial of Pedro Antuna, who was charged with seven counts of Sexual Activity w/Child, one count Lewd/Lascivious Conduct, and five counts of Lewd/Lascivious Battery over the course of 6 years beginning mid-2000.
Mr. Antuna was clean-shaven with a neat haircut and well dressed with a suit and tie, as though to project the message that someone so “put together” could not have committed the heinous acts for which he was on trial.

Our volunteers were impressed with the grace of the eldest victim (who is now an adult) as she testified. In addition to being thoroughly prepared, Assistant State Attorney Ryan Williams was the epitome of a gentleman as he led the victim through the ordeal of telling a room full of strangers about the embarrassing and disgraceful acts she was forced to endure at the hands of the defendant. Defense Counsel Melissa Stockham's cross examination of the victim was nothing short of horrendous in the way she treated this young lady.

Stockham was condescending and repeatedly asked why she didn’t say anything about the abuse even after the defendant was removed from the home and their parents' divorce proceedings were underway. She kept asking questions over and over again in various ways trying to get different answers and/or cause the victim to give conflicting answers - making comments such as “well which is it?” “is it your contention?” “you don’t remember?” Stockham implied that because the victims called the defendant "Dad" even while the abuse was happening, that such abuse not must have occurred if they kept calling him Dad.

The oldest victim maintained her composure under both direct and cross-examination. She testified that throughout the many years she was subjected to the defendant's assaults, she complied because she was attempting to protect her younger sisters from being victimized. As is so often the case, it was only after the defendant was no longer in the home did the victim feel safe to disclose the abuse once she suspected a younger sister had also been assaulted.

She testified that Mr. Antuna had two sides to his personality but was a good Dad to her younger siblings and provided a stable home.  She also believed that she was the only victim in the home. The defense attorney attempted to put blame on a younger sibling for not saying anything when she once witnessed the eldest victim on one occasion run from the bedroom (where all the assaults occurred) holding her pants up - expecting that the younger child should ask the victim what had happened and try to help.

In response to repeated questions from the defense attorney as to why the victim never confided to anyone about the abuse she stated, “It’s hard to walk around with an ‘I’ve been raped sign’ on my forehead,” and “I didn’t expect to be raped my whole childhood.”

One of the things I find most aggravating is that defense attorneys in these cases seem expect children to react to situations in the same manner as an adult would be expected to behave. And they're made to feel guilty for not trying to stop their caretaker - a bigger, stronger, adult who wields incredible power over their lives - from abusing them or another family member.

It is the fear of encountering such treatment that keeps victims from being willing to prosecute in these cases.

On the second day of trial, Antuna attempted to delay the trial by asking to fire his attorney. Judge Lubet told him he was free to do so, but that the trial would continue.
 
That night he attempted suicide by hanging himself while in custody at the jail. He was transported to the hospital.
 
The judge determined that since the defendant voluntarily did not attend court, case law permitted the trial to continue.  The trial concluded on Friday and the jury rendered a verdict of guilty of all thirteen counts. Sentencing was scheduled for January.
 
Mr. Antuna succumbed to his injuries and passed away on Saturday.
 
As someone who was victimized by a loved one who committed suicide, I suspect the victims in this case will feel a combination of sadness, anger, relief and gratitude. Sad that the person they loved came to such a tragic end. Angry that they don't get to see him pay for what he did (though I suspect he is now paying dearly). Relief that the ordeal is over. And gratitude that this abuser can never hurt them again.
 
I hope they learn that forgiving does not mean that they have to agree that what he did was ok. Forgiving is merely letting go of the bitterness, anger, and other negative feelings one has and allowing God to take care of the situation as He sees fit. Forgiving is the best way to quit being a victim and to start being a survivor and to truly thrive.

17 comments:

  1. I am sure that Ms. Williams fervent desire to help victims of sexual assault is sincere. However, her rush to judgement is dangerous and typical in cases like Mr. Antuna's. The accused was a friend of mine, and I know for a fact that he passed three polygraphs. The first one given by the detective was assigned to this case. Secondly, my friend committed suicide at home not jail. Get your facts straight Ms. Williams. Unfortunately, polygraphs don't mean anything unless you fail them. This case has taught me never to rush to judgement in cases where men are accused of crimes by their ex-wives. There are plenty of innocent men in jail accused of sexual assault. Statistics are available online. By the way, Pedro's attire has nothing to do with this case Ms. Wlliams. Victims like yourself are quick to punish anyone accused of this type of crime. All of the facts of this case were not permitted to be presented. There is so much more to this case and only the parties involved know the truth. Justice will prevail someday. The truth always comes out in the end. God is the final judge.

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  2. If you have other facts that will prove Mr. Antuna was innocent, why didn't you testify? If he was such a decent man unjustly accused set the record straight now. Mr. Antuna was not accused by his ex-wife of sexual abuse but by two of his step-daughters who only wanted a real Dad to love them. While some individuals unfortunately make wrongful allegations of sexual abuse, it is not always the case. In Mr. Antuna's case, the jury felt he did in fact commit such heinous acts.

    I was in the courtroom during a day of testimony and cross-examination and had an opportunity to observe Mr. Antuna. It is common knowledge that defense attorneys will tell defendants to dress professionally in order to convey a message of respectibility to the jury and Mr. Antuna looked the part. However, when two of his step-daughters were testifying, he sat back in his chair with a smirk on his face and in my opinion glared at them as a form of intimidation. Was this his normal method of communication towards them?

    It is unfortunate that Mr. Antuna chose to take his own life - perhaps he feared being wrongfully convicted and forced to spend years in jail or perhaps he knew what he did was wrong and the truth would catch up to him. As you said, the truth always comes out in the end.

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  3. haven't you guys ever heard of the phrase INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY? it is the defense attorney's JOB to cross examine "victims," and i guarantee it was not easy for Ms. Stockham to ask those questions, but she did her job and we should all be thankful that there are zealous advocates out there who defend our constitutional rights, WHOEVER we are.

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  4. All I say to this is why if you are not guilty would you try tactics like trying to fire your attorney, and then kill yourself? Innocent until proven guilty is true, and he was found guilty. I think the sentence would have been death anyway (it should have been), so really he saved us taxpayers some money.

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  5. So sad that we sit upon our thrones and pass judgement instead of helping those that are sick in mind or body. I do not know Mr. Antuna but I do know that this is somebodys child. This is Gods child and we should all remember that none of us were created perfect. This doesnt excuse bad behavior. We need to protect our most valuable asset, our children. Nobody should be passing judgement and making assumptions based on how somebody dressed, or how somebody communicated, etc. Let alone someone who is a survivor of domestic abuse. Could your judgement be a little clouded? Maybe? Maybe not. I am a survivor and I know that mine could be so instead of shaking my finger and assuming guilt I instead offer a hand to not only the victim but also the accused victim. It is not mine to judge. I will leave that to the creator. Could Mr. Antuna have felt like he was being railroaded? Could he have been unhappy with his representation? Sure. Could he have felt that he could not live a life of being accused of something he did not do? Sure. Could these very simple solution be why he requested to fire his representation and why he finally ended his life. Make more sense to me than the explanation offered above. Why do we point to what he wears, how he looks at someone in the courtroom, what he expects from his representation to determine if he is guilty or innocent? What is the next step? He is guilty because he was a different race than I? Or I didnt like the way he wore his hair? Come on people! I was taught from a young age to "never point your finger at someone because next time you might find the finger pointing back at you." My suggestion is that we get these children the help that they so desperately need. Because if they are telling the truth....they need our help and if they are not....they need our help too. May God be with all the victims of this unfortunate event. Incuding the jaded, hurt people who forget that we are all equal.

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  6. Ms. Williams, according to your profile, you couldn't possibly be expected to form an educated, intelligent opinion on the thousands of men in this country who are falsely accused of sexual crimes. Your perception is clouded due to your past. How then can you sit in judgement of an innocent man? Pedro Antuna's closet is full of suits, and professional attire because that is who he was. His attire in the the court room wasn't for "appearance sake." Furthermore, these girls aren't victims. I'd urge you to review the medical exams that were done. The medical exams performed on both of the girls were inconclusive. The oldest one stated during her interview with DCF in February of 2008 that she had never had sexual intercourse with anybody. She further stated that she had only had anal and oral sex with Pedro. She stated that she had never had vaginal sex with Pedro, yet the medical exam clearly indicated that she has had sexual intercourse with somebody. When asked to give details about the alledged events during the DCF interview, she went on to say how she was in the honors program at her high school and was going to recieve a scholarship to UCF. When the interviewer repeated the question she merely stated, "I don't know, it happened too numerous to count."
    The second girl that gave a most horrifying "story" of the alleged events that happened to her and how he had raped her numerous times did also have a medical exam that was inconclusive. The medical exam reads that the exam performed was NOT CONSISTENT WITH THE CHILD'S STORY. They were unable to confirm any scarring, or tissue damage that would have been evident had such abuse gone on for the duration that she testified to during the trial. Furthermore, the child's medical exam clearly indicated that she has never had sexual intercourse with anyone. If you would like to review the medical records for yourself, stay tunded as they will soon be released to the media. During this child's taped interview with DCF in February of 2008, she was not able to give one description of any of the alleged events. Her only answers were, "um, when I was in sixth grade he took my virginity, he put his penis in my vagina." Very matter of fact and showed no emotion. When asked again to describe the alleged events, she merely stated that "it happened to many times, and that she couldn't remember.
    Judge Lubet incorrectly instructed the jury during the jury selection process, "you have to be willing to convict the defendant without any evidence because there is no evidence in this case." Completely untrue. There were medical records that clearly indicated that these people were not victims.

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  7. The expert witness in the case had performed a series of battery tests on Pedro. These battery tests are accepted into the court as evidence as they support a behavioral profile to conclude if a person possess certain behaviors that would be indicative of certain classes of people, such as pedophiles. The expert witness concluded in his report that Pedro possessed NONE OF THE TRAITS THAT WOULD BE INDICATIVE OF A PEDOPHILE.
    Why wasn't any of the evidence that proved his innocence allowed to be presented during the trial? Only the judge can answer as to what he would and would not allow.
    The prosecutor, Ryan Williams incorrectly argued the State of Florida vs. Townsend case. In the Townsend case there had been some evidence of trauma to one of the alleged victims although the root of the trauma was not determined. Was the trauma due to divorce, or ongoing domestic violence between the parents? That question goes unanswered. Yet for the years in question that these girls claim they had been abused there was no evidence of trauma. They all testified to being of above average intelligence, they are all honors students and very well adjusted children. How is this possible, how is it possible that in every other case where a child has truly been a victim of a sexual crime there are signs such as eating disorders, behavioral changes such as agression, anger, or sudden depressiona, withdrawal from friends and or family, yet in this case, none of the "alleged victims" had ANY SIGNS. There own mother stated in her taped interview with DCF in February of 2008 that she had no idea that any of this was going on, she stated that it wasn't until they left Pedro, then, 4 months after they left Pedro, and 1 month after he filed for a divorce was when the girls told her. Yet she testified in court that she had known the whole time. She stated, "He confessed to me in 2003 what he had done, but I thought it was ok because God was going to take care of it." Well, excuse me, but in Ms. Stockham's words, "which is it?" Did she know or didn't she? In conlusion of the Townsend case, the Florida Statute now reads, "A child's testimony can be admitted into evidence, however, without corroborating evidence, the child's testimony is not enough to sustain a conviction. To do so would be unconstitutional." Therefore, it is just to conclude that in Pedro's case, his rights were violated by all parties involved including the judge and the prosecutor. Who fights for the innocent?

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  8. His attempt to fire his attorney wasn't anything more than an innocent man, desperate to save his own life. He saw her performance in the courtroon. She didn't introduce any of the evidence, she wasn't prepared to cross exam any of the witnesses. The witnesses on the defendants side were only asked four questions each. Yet, these alleged victims testified in court to things that 22 months ago were not in there written statements taken by the Sheriff's Office in January of 2008. They testified and gave details to things that they "couldn't remember" in the taped interview with DCF in February of 2008. Clearly they were coached. They had 22 months to rehearse memories and to get their stories straight. That is very apparent when you read their original written statements, their taped interviews and reports from the CPT team. None of these entities proceed with sexual abuse allegations as though the child or children are lying. They validate and affirm automatically that what the child is saying is true.
    What about the innocent men that file for a divorce and fight for custody of their children? Pedro is not the first man that has had to endure the ULTIMATE BETRAYAL from his ex-wife and family by being accused of sexual abuse allegations, and because the court system has failed again to protect the innocent, he sadly enough will not be the last.
    How dare any of you sit in judgement of a man you have never met, and never had the privilage of speaking with. Pedro was a father, a son, a brother, a friend, and a genuine, compassionate heart to everyone that met him. Everyone that knew Pedro, loved Pedro. He had a very kind, gentle, sweet spirit and he even said to me once, "I still love these girls, I don't know why they are lying for their mother, but I do love them. If they ever came to me and told me that they needed something, I would forgive them."
    Pedro did not take his own life because he was guilty. These people so vehemently destroyed his life, willingly destroyed his life because they were instructed to do so by their mother. I hope that all of you that sit in judgement of this innocent man, never find yourself in a position of being falsely accused of something you didn't do, or worse, your father, your brother, your son, or your husband. Statistics say that you will be affected by false allegations in some fashion, and when you are, you better hope that the person sitting across from you has more compassion for you, than you have had for Pedro.
    In loving memory of Pedro Antuna, we miss you

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  9. Thank you Micheal for telling me about this web site it's very insightful.
    It's a crying shame that someone has too much time on thier hands to sit and waste their time and dwell on all this what a life huh? Nothing better to do? Get a life!! I rode with Pedro many times on our bikes, mostly to Daytona Beach and while his wife (at the time) was at home tending to the children on numerous weekend. That he was out and about sticking his penis in whatever would give him the time and pleasure, a few times I had to put him in his place for even suggesting " three-somes" with my wife and I. yeah his closet was full of suits, sure, does not mean that his closet on the inside was full of demons, cause they were, shortly before he took his own life and even when he got together with his fiancee Carol Chaput, in which if you google her you'd be surprised on what comes up about her in Soputh Florida, kidnapped, broke free and was all lies, she was a school teacher for crying out loud! They were made for each other, but we had gone to Daytona many times in which he had a girlfriend, and Carol had no idea, what a shame, so he was not as innocent as one would think, he even stated once that he made Carol have anal sex with him and then he bragged about how she sat in the bathroom and cried, Let me tell you I knew Pedro and he was the devikl in disguise at times, he WAS my friend and I hate to blast him, but the truth hurts and he was a sexual deviant and would get his rocks off any way he could no matter who it hurt. And before he took his life out of guilt, in which I'm sure that was the reason from one of our conversations saying he screwed up and now he had to figure out how to get out of it, I barely know his ex and she was a good woman, brutally honest and a good Christian woman, although I don't believe in that stuff but she was a good person, why would she have her girls "lie"? She walked away from evrything Pedro said, she took furniture and clothes that was it, in which according to him, they agreed upon. Whoever= is posting the later comments obviously didn't know him all that well, He cheated numerous times on his wife as well as his fiancee and in death she's standing by him? This would be a different story if he would of gotten ahold of other kids or her's if she had any daughters,in which I believe she did. Rest In Peace Pedro, but I'm glad you can't hurt anyone anymore. But to those that are falsely accused contact this woman posting these other comments she could be your lawyer

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  10. The Previous comment by an anonymous posted on December 21, 2009 that claims that the people posting on this site should get a life, does that include himself. There is no credibility to any of the statements made above, no documentation, no evidence of any kind. I have to believe that the cruel and just plain hateful statements made herein are being made by Madeline Antuna and her new husband, five time convicted felon, Talmon Price. The reason that I know this is because I am very good friends with all of the guys that Pedro has gone riding with and they ALL know what a devil Madeline Antuna is. She is far from a good christian woman. Her entire family blames her for the lies that she forced her daughters to tell. The previous lies told by anonymous person about Pedro's fiance are exactly what Madeline Antuna lied about in her deposition to atty Melissa Stockham. Only someone close to Madeline like her felony husband would be on here telling the same lies she told. You are sick, hateful people that do nothing but spread lies about people. You deserve to rot in hell for the dispicable way you hurt people.

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  11. Wow is all I can say I like how everyone comes on here pointing there fingers and passing judgement without getting any of there facts straight as a very close family member all I can say is shame on all of you. Only a few on here have there facts like the poster above me (December 23) The family is split now and nothing will ever be the same. I just hope that no one has to go through this kind of hell. Peace be with you all.

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  12. Yes shame on all of you!! We will pray for the true victims in this case...which are those innocent young girls!! Let everyone find some peace and move on.

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  13. ok Carol This is Talmon...ENOUGH aklready how devilish can you be? And you call yourself a Christian? Youi are about as dirty as he was, Look at your own past....I accepted mine cause yeah guess what I screwed up... MORE THAN 5 TIMES!!!! And guess what I changed my ways unlike you. I don't call DCF on you like you have 7 times in the last two years and all were dismissed cause they hold no grounds. The kids lost thier father and then you want to call and have them taken away from their mother/ Yeah real Christian, your heart is full of hate and prejudice and that is a shame. We have forgiven you and pedro and all of that side of the family, which I might add that you don't belong to, but neither here nor there, you poke and prosd and cause problems and then text me with a dead man's phone and say that your kids want to get the kids presents for christmas HA how dumb are you? Werll I'm not going to get into a arguemnet with you cause I know that I am better than that. But the truth hurts huh? There's nothing that you or anyone else can say or do that will hurt us, We have chosen to move on and get on with our lives and that's what we are doing. Now that that is said and done, if this continues we will persue legal action for harrasment if need to. You are more than welcome to move on and leave us alone, cause you and your kids are nothing to us, no realtion what so ever and we are not friends by any means, so the calls that are blocked and what not are just your childish way of playing games. Grow up a little bit and get Christ in your heart before it's too late for you, He will give you peace and freedom. Merry Christmas and Have a Happy New Year. Hope that you and your children find peace and happiness

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  14. "A child's testimony can be admitted into evidence, however, without corroborating evidence, the child's testimony is not enough to sustain a conviction. To do so would be unconstitutional." Therefore, it is just to conclude that defendant rights were violated by all parties involved including the judge and the prosecutor. Who fights for the innocent? We need judges that will not abuse their position and convict the innocent. We need prosecutors to stop convicting the innocent when they know thier clients are liars.

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    1. so true, PLEASE, DO NOT VOTE FOR RYAN WILLIAMS

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  15. I also knew the defendant and am sickened that this ever even happened. Those girls should be ashamed of themselves for lying like that. He is one of the most decent men I've ever known and I knew his whole family for many years. We were close friends. I know this stuff didn't go on. Those girls were lying for their Mother. The truth will catch up with them.

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  16. You never truly know a person. So for all you people who sit here going back and forth saying he was a good person no he was the devil please stop. No one knows what happens behind closed doors. Only God knows the truth and no matter what Mr. Antuna took the easy way out. As some of you said there are lots of people in jail who are innocent and don't take their lives. And as many as you guys know you get more jail time for drugs and guns than for child molestation.

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