HOUSTON — An ex-Houston police officer broke down in tears after he was sentenced to life in prison Monday for raping a waitress in the back of his patrol car.
Abraham Joseph stood stunned when he heard the sentence. He stared at the jury as he tried to process what just happened to him, then began crying.
The former cop’s wife collapsed into the arms of another family member in the back of the courtroom.
The jury last week convicted Joseph of aggravated sexual assault by a public servant after a month-long trial.
During the sentencing phase, jurors heard from three other women who said Joseph also assaulted them and threatened to have them deported if they told anyone.
"I’m not surprised by the sentence in light of the accusations that came out in punishment," said Defense Attorney Nicole DeBorde. "You know, obviously we’re disappointed in the verdict but the jurors have a very hard job to do. They listened carefully to the evidence and I have a lot of faith in our criminal justice system and I appreciate their hard work and their time."
Joseph was fired in 2011 after he was indicted for the rape of a 38 year-old immigrant from El Salvador.
During the trial, the victim testified that she was arrested, handcuffed and raped by Joseph as she left her job at a central southeast Houston cantina.
Prosecutors praised her Monday for having the courage to come foward.
"Most of all, thank the victim in this case because without her, who knows the extent of the damage done?" said Prosecutor Heyward Carter. This city and the people in it, they may not know her and they probably never will, but they owe her an incredible debt of gratitude and one that probably never will be paid."
"With him going away for life we feel secure that the community is protected now and we’re glad that the jury did their job and did such an amazing job in putting him away," said Prosecutor Eric Bily.
The victim was not in the courtroom for Monday's sentencing, but she spoke last week after Joseph was convicted.
"I would like to thank God first of all, the district attorney, the jurors," the 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."
Joseph could have received as little as five years in prison, but jurors chose the maximum sentence instead. They actually sentenced Joseph to two life sentences -- one for each forced sex act -- but the sentences will run concurrently.