OAKLAND -- A Union City man accused of sexually assaulting his 5-year-old niece more than a decade ago avoided a lifetime in prison as a jury decided it could not convict him of aggravated sexual assault.
However, Alejandro Amezcua, 27, still faces up to 17 years in prison because the jury did conclude that the then-16-year-old inappropriately touched his niece on numerous occasions when she visited the apartment he shared with his mother.
Amezcua was charged with three counts of aggravated sexual assault and five counts of lewd and lascivious conduct on a child under 14 in connection to a series of alleged incidents in 2002. The aggravated sexual assault charges included an alleged rape, sodomy and oral copulation.
Those alleged incidents, however, were not reported to police until 2011 when the girl mentioned the alleged abuse to a school nurse.
An investigation by police revealed that the girl had, in the past, told both her brother and a friend about the alleged abuse but pleaded with both not to tell any adults.
The girl, now 16, also testified in front of the jury describing scenes in which she said she was forced to watch pornographic videos and then recreate what she saw with her uncle.
The girl also testified about being forced to touch Amezcua's genitals while he was giving her a swimming lesson and being routinely touched and kissed by Amezcua.
Amezcua's attorney, Julius Engel, argued that the girl's testimony could not be trusted because the incidents happened more than a decade ago and because she was only 5 years old at the time. Engel said there was no other physical evidence proving there was a rape or sodomy.
"This was scary because there was no physical evidence," Engel said Tuesday. "My client was looking at life in prison."
Engel said his client is innocent and continued to refute the girl's testimony that Amezcua touched and kissed her. "The memories can be defective," Engel said of the girl's testimony.
Deputy district attorney Scott Ford asked the jury to convict Amezcua of all the charges and pointed to a recorded phone call the girl made to Amezcua as part of the police investigation. Ford said the call shows Amezcua is guilty.
"It's not fair what you did to me," the girl is heard saying. "I know," Amezcua responded.
While Ford argued that the exchange shows that Amezcua was guilty, the jury appeared to believe that it did not provide enough proof of a rape, sodomy and oral copulation.
Nevertheless, Ford said he was "very pleased" with the jury's verdict. "Justice has been served for the victim in this case," he said.
Amezcua will be sentenced Dec. 20.