GALVESTON — A man convicted of attempting to sexually assault two island joggers last year avoided prison time when a jury Tuesday sentenced him to probation.
The jury of eight women and four men deliberated about three hours before agreeing on a 10-year sentence and a $20,000 total fine for Christopher Adrian Vela, 25, in the Aug. 13, 2012, attacks in the 4700 block of Seawall Boulevard and at 51st Street and Avenue N ½.
The jury, however, probated the prison time, giving Judge Lonnie Cox, of Galveston’s 56th District Court, the full range of the maximum punishment if Vela violated the terms of his probation.
Cox, at Vela’s formal sentencing, ordered the defendant to serve 180 days in the county jail, among a host of other conditions of probation.
Prosecutors Kacey VanDeaver and Kayla Allen sought four years of prison time for Vela in what they called “sneak attacks” on women he didn’t know, following a night of heavy drinking.
Although the women’s names were mentioned in court, The Daily News does not identify victims of sex crimes.
The first woman attacked in the pre-dawn darkness on the seawall testified last week that Vela grabbed her from behind and took her to the ground.
She fought back, tearing a piece of Vela’s shirt off as he attempted to pull down her shorts, testimony revealed. Vela’s DNA was found on that piece of clothing, Allen said.
The second woman attacked shortly thereafter was unable to identify Vela, who carried her 44 yards before she struck him with a metal pipe she carried to fend off dogs. Vela dropped her and ran. Investigators arrested Vela two days later after he came to Galveston police headquarters.
Authorities found Vela’s DNA on the metal pipe, testimony revealed.
Vela faced from two to 10 years in prison on the two counts of attempted sexual assault.
Sam R. Cammack III, Vela’s defense attorney, told the jury the case was a “poster child for overcharging someone with a crime,” and he urged the jury to consider probation.
The jury decided on 10 years of probation, as Vela had no previous felony convictions. Vela must also register as a sex offender for 10 years after his probation expires.
Cox also ordered other conditions of Vela’s probation, including performing 160 hours of community service, attending alcohol and psychological counseling.
Vela must also wear a device that detects alcohol consumption and provide a DNA sample.