Prosecution contends Morin should receive life sentence

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

A sentencing hearing was held Wednesday in the case of Abel Morin Jr., a man convicted of sexually assaulting a mother and her daughter in San Diego two years ago, but the judge's final decision on Morin's sentence will not be issued until next month.

The hearing was held before Judge Alex Gabert in the 229th District Court in San Diego Wednesday afternoon. In November, Morin was found guilty of two counts of sexual assault, one count of aggravated sexual assault, one count of aggravated kidnapping and one count of burglary of a habitation in connection with the July 22, 2006 incident. The jury returned a not-guilty verdict on three other charges, which included an additional count of sexual assault, an additional count of aggravated sexual assault and one count of robbery.

On Wednesday, the prosecution presented testimony regarding a 2001 conviction Morin received in Jim Wells County on a charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child.

Gabert heard testimony on that prior conviction from a court official from Jim Wells County and from investigators in the case. The defense presented testimony from Morin's mother.

Judge Gabert delayed sentencing after a question was raised concerning state sentencing requirements when a prior conviction for aggravated sexual assault exists.

Prosecutor Jon West maintained to the judge state law requires an automatic life sentence for each of the charges except burglary of a habitation, since a prior conviction exists.

Defense Attorney David Towler questioned the validity of the prior conviction and argued that a mandatory sentence is not required.

Judge Gabert requested each attorney to file briefs on the issue this week, with a final decision to be issued in a hearing scheduled for Feb. 4.