LEESBURG, Ga. (WALB) - A man accused of a heinous crime is now free after sitting in jail for eight months.
Avner Mazariegos was found not guilty in Lee County’s first jury trial since the pandemic. He faced charges of aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, and rape.
District Attorney Lewis Lamb said these cases are very hard to try.
The person who accused Mazariegos came forward years after they say they were assaulted.
Lamb said that’s not uncommon.
Most victims come forward when they’ve had time to process the trauma, and feel comfortable facing the people who hurt them.
Lamb says that delay makes getting evidence and a guilty verdict, much harder.
“We have to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt and those cases can be very difficult to try because the evidence is somewhat limited. As opposed to a situation where the event happened last week, and you have current medical examinations those kinds of things.” said Lamb.
Patrick Eidson, the attorney representing Mazariegos, said he presented an argument surrounding the credibility of the accuser.
“The alleged victim came forward and then recanted her statement saying that it was not true. That was five years ago. Then eight months ago, she then came forward again saying that in was in fact true,” said Eidson
He said this credibility issue was looked at hard by the jury.
He believed testimony given by the grandmother of the victim played a big role in the jury reaching their decision.
She testified she was looking into the room where the incident occurred.
“She was extremely honest, which is all I ever ask for in trial, and what she saw completely contradicted what the accuser was saying. It didn’t conform to what she was saying it at all,” said Eidson.
District Attorney Lewis Lamb said these kinds of cases are difficult to hear.
“I believe in the jury system. I believe that juries almost always reach the right conclusions and I’m not going to criticize a jury verdict, especially in a case that is as difficult as this to try.” said Lamb.
Both say the jury did a good job questioning and looking at evidence presented.
“They paid very close attention because on its face, if you would’ve taken in at face value, what was being said and the charges were extremely horrendous and fortunately, the jury was able to deconstruct those stories and come back with a verdict in favor of the defendant,” said Eidson.
Eidson said Mazariegos had no previous charges before this incident.
Although these kinds of cases are difficult, Lamb said they accept the verdict.
“We accept the verdict. We accept the jury’s conclusion and we will get a move on to the next case.” said Lamb.
Anyone who experiences or sees any kind of abusive situation should report it to their local law enforcement.