GALVESTON — A jury on Monday convicted a man of attempting to sexually assault two joggers last year, but the panel needed at least another day to decide his punishment.

A jury of eight women and four men deliberated a little more than three hours Friday and Monday before finding Christopher Adrian Vela, 25, guilty of tackling two women from behind and trying to pull their shorts down.

The separate incidents happened Aug. 13, 2012, the 4700 block of Seawall Boulevard and at 51st Street and Avenue N ½.

Prosecutors asked the jury to sentence Vela to four years in prison for the “sneak attacks.” The defense suggested probation was more appropriate for a defendant never charged with a felony.

Vela engaged in a night of heavy drinking and tried unsuccessfully to win back his ex-girlfriend’s companionship the night before and the morning of the attacks, Prosecutor Kacey VanDeaver said. 

Vela drove to the seawall and parked in the predawn darkness, VanDeaver said. He got out of his car and grabbed a woman from behind. The woman identified Vela, saying the attack resembled a bear hug. She fell to the ground and began fighting Vela as he tried to pull her tight jogging shorts down, the woman said.

The woman tore off a piece of his shirt and Vela fled in his car, testimony revealed.

Vela was then accused of attacking a second woman shortly thereafter as she jogged around Alamo School. That woman testified in Spanish with the help of an English translator.

The woman couldn’t identify Vela as her attacker, who used his forearm to cover the woman’s eyes and attempted to take her jogging pants off, she said. She kicked, struggled and told him in English and Spanish to leave her alone.

Her attacker made a growling sound, like a long clearing of the throat, according to the woman’s imitation of the noise. The man picked her up and carried her 44 yards, she testified, but she struck him with a metal pipe that she carried as protection from canines. Authorities found Vela’s DNA on the end of the metal pipe, prosecutors said.

The attacker dropped the woman on the concrete and left. Authorities arrested Vela two days later after investigators convinced him to come to Galveston police headquarters.

Sam R. Cammack III, Vela’s attorney, told the jury that the case was a “poster child for overcharging someone with a crime.”

In addition to drinking, Vela might have been taking something he shouldn’t have, Cammack said without further elaboration last week.

In Vela’s punishment hearing, the state subpoenaed Vela’s ex-girlfriend, who testified Vela struck her with open and closed fists on occasions in their roughly nine-year relationship. The only lasting injury the woman suffered was a chipped tooth, she said. The woman, however, never reported the incident to police.

Vela’s father begged the jury for probation for his son, saying he’d never been charged with a felony and was on the president’s and dean’s list while studying at College of the Mainland in Texas City.

Vela’s previous criminal history included only misdemeanors, a marijuana possession and a resisting arrest charge that was reduced to a disorderly conduct, testimony revealed.

Prosecutor Kayla Allen told the jury that Vela didn’t know how to treat women.

“All there is between a woman and Christopher Vela is one more drink and a bad attitude,” Allen said. 

The jury in Judge Lonnie Cox’s 56th District Court in Galveston deliberated about 90 minutes before asking to retire for the day. The panel is expected to resume deliberation this morning.

Vela must register as a sex offender for 10 years, Cammack said.

 

Contact reporter Chris Paschenko at 409-683-5241 or chris.paschenko@galvnews.com.

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