HOUSTON — After a month-long trial and 7 hours of deliberations a Harris County jury found ex-Houston Police Officer Abraham Joseph guilty of aggravated sexual assault by a public servant.
Joseph was fired in 2011 after he was charged with raping a waitress.
He appeared stunned as the verdict was announced. His wife, who stood by him during the entire trial, buried her head in her hands and sobbed.
The victim sat in a front row and wept and smiled as the verdict was read.
"I would like to thank God first of all, the district attorney, the jurors," the 38-year-old victim said through an interpreter. "And all the people that believed me because I just told the truth. And I am very pleased because justice has been made."
The accuser, an immigrant from El Salvador, said she was arrested, handcuffed and raped by Joseph as she left her job at a central southeast Houston cantina in January 2011.
During the trial prosecutors presented another woman, also an immigrant, who said Joseph forced her into sex by threatening to arrest her on outstanding warrants.
Three more women with similar stories testified Thursday during the sentencing phase of the trial.
In closing arguments Wednesday morning, prosecutor Heyward Carter said Joseph "was a cop and he is and always will be a rapist."
Carter told jurors that Joseph preyed on illegal immigrants because he thought they would be too scared to tell.
"They’re trash to him. They’re trash, they don’t even belong," prosecutor Eric Bily said to the jury during closing arguments. "He can rape them and dispose of them and they wouldn’t dare tell. He’s a Houston police officer."
Throughout the trial Defense Attorney Nicole DeBorde tried to cast enough doubt on the woman’s credibility to make the jury believe the sex was consensual. They alleged the victim might have been motivated by money and the promise of a visa to stay in the US legally.
"There is a lot wrong with what Abraham Joseph did," admitted defense attorney Nicole DeBorde in her closing statement. "It is not OK to be on the clock, fooling around on your wife. Totally unacceptable. But whether you dislike Abraham Joseph has nothing to do with is presumption of innocence and the state’s burden of proof."
The jury was allowed to consider three possible guilty verdicts: aggravated sexual assault by a public servant which includes the belief that he used his gun to make the woman submit to his advances, sexual assault by a public servant which assumes the woman was assaulted against her will by the police officer, or the lesser charge of "improper sexual activity with a person in custody" a charge that would assume there was some level of consent.
The sentencing phase continues Friday.
Joseph could get from 5 years to life in prison.