A Houston man was sentenced to life in prison last week after pleading guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child.
According to the charges, the man committed acts of child sexual abuse against a 6-year-old boy in the bathroom of a Houston public library. Apparently, the boy and his brother were changing clothes to prepare for a swimming lesson when the attack occurred.
In Texas, child sexual assault charges carry a potential penalty of up to life in prison. The longer sentence in this case can likely be attributed to the fact that the defendant had a previous conviction for aggravated sexual assault; in 2005, he was convicted of molesting a child in Upshur County.
Mental Illness and Sex Offenses
Like many convicted sex offenders, the defendant in this case suffered from serious mental illness. At trial, he apologized for his crimes and explained that he is currently being treated for both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Many mental illnesses cause people to act impulsively or make decisions they otherwise would not if they were operating under sound mind. However, most courts are unwilling to view mental illness as a complete defense to allegations of child sexual abuse.
As a result, it is important for mentally ill individuals accused of abuse to enlist the help of a sex crimes defense attorney who can ensure that the defendant is treated fairly in light of his or her mental illness. Sometimes, this may mean seeking treatment or counseling as an alternative to prison.
This case also highlights how important it is for mentally ill people to keep up with their treatment regimens. Although it is unclear whether the defendant was being treated for his schizophrenia and bipolar at the time of his offense, it is known that many mentally ill people get into trouble with the law when they go off their medications.
Source: The Brownsville Herald, "Man gets life for sex assault at Houston library," June 22, 2012.