ST. PAUL — A Worthington man appealed his 2019 conviction of criminal sexual conduct in the Minnesota Court of Appeals Sep. 8, and the court affirmed the verdict determined by a jury trial in Nobles County District Court.
Otto Gonzalez-Bautista was arrested in January 2015 on charges that he had repeatedly sexually abused a child with whom he was acquainted when the child was between 4 and 7 years old. He was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct (indicating penetration) and second-degree criminal sexual conduct (denoting sexual contact).
Although Gonzalez-Bautista maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process, a jury found him guilty of both offenses, and he was sentenced to 12 years in prison last July.
Last week, he appealed his conviction in the Minnesota Court of Appeals on two grounds. He argued that the state did not provide enough evidence to convict him, and that the nurse practitioner who testified at the trial broke the rules of judicial proceeding by asserting the victim's credibility.
Gonzalez-Bautista asserted that there wasn't sufficient evidence against him because the victim's testimony was not credible, the state did not list specific dates on which the abuse occurred and the victim's testimony indicated that she may have confused him with another abuser.
The court argued that it is up to the jury to determine whose testimony is credible, and the jury evidently believed the victim. As to the concern about specific dates, the Minnesota Supreme Court has previously established that an exact date is not needed in order to convict a person of criminal sexual conduct. A general time frame of September 2012 to November 2014 was established, and the court considered that sufficient.
Although the victim did testify about abuse from a second individual during the trial and could not with exact certainty remember which acts had been done by which abuser, she also said she was sure Gonzalez-Bautista had abused her "because he used to do it mostly like every day when I was at their house." That testimony is enough to support Gonzalez-Bautista's conviction, the appellate court wrote.
The nurse practitioner from Child's Voice who had examined the victim also testified at the trial. As part of her testimony, she stated that although the victim's genital examination was normal, the NP was able to infer that abuse had occurred "based on (the victim's) history." Gonzalez-Bautista claimed that this statement was improper vouching testimony and that the district court erred by allowing it.
Because Gonzalez-Bautista did not dispute this testimony at the time of the trial, he's not entitled to appeal it now, the court explained. The court went on to say that even if the nurse practitioner's testimony was allowed in error, the error did not affect Gonzalez-Bautista's substantial rights, and therefore cannot be overturned at this point.