Hernandez guilty of abusing children
Catalogue of beatings described in plea agreement
Mario Hernandez, age 30, was sentenced to serve 11 months in the Barnstable County House of Correction after pleading guilty yesterday to five separate assault charges against two children.
Mr. Hernandez admitted in court that he whipped a young girl with a wire cable, causing cuts that left a permanent scar. He admitted at separate times he hit her with a belt, beat her hands with a metal spatula, and held her against a wall while he punched her with a boxing glove. The girl was six to eight years old when the abuse took place, according to the time frames outlined by the prosecutor.
In a separate case, Mr. Hernandez admitted hitting another young girl with a belt buckle. That girl was four to six years old at the time.
Mr. Hernandez pled guilty to the charges in Edgartown District Court Wednesday, after Cape and Island Assistant District Attorney Laura Marshard outlined the Commonwealth's case against him. She said the assaults happened over a period of nearly two years, beginning in 2003. Ms. Marshard called the abuse "sickening."
The two young victims of the assaults were in court Wednesday, prepared to testify against Mr. Hernandez at trial. Also ready to testify was Tisbury Police Detective Mark Santon. He has investigated charges of abuse against the children in the case, which dates back to 1997. Detective Santon was prepared with evidence that included a spatula and wire cable. But Mr. Hernandez agreed to plead guilty before the trial began, in an agreement arranged after Ms. Marshard and defense attorney Drew Segadelli consulted with Associate Justice John M. Julian.
Ms. Marshard said the only reason the Commonwealth agreed to settle the case was to spare the children, now ages 12 and 10, the ordeal of testifying and cross examination during a trial. In her sentencing recommendation, Ms. Marshard asked Judge Julian to impose a total of 9.5 years in a House of Correction, with only one year to be served. The rest of the sentence would be suspended, during which the defendant would spend four years on probation. Ms. Marshard said that if the case had gone to trial and resulted in a conviction, she would have asked for the full 9.5 years to be served.
One of the abuse victims is now living with her biological father in Oak Bluffs. He addressed the court before the judge issued his sentence.
"Her main adult male role model was merciless and brutal," he told the court. "He clearly showed no mercy on my daughter. I would ask the court to show no mercy on him."
On the first charge, Judge Julian ordered a 2.5 year sentence, suspended for two years of probation. The probation began yesterday. If Mr. Hernandez violates the terms of his probation, he could serve the full 2.5 years. On each of the other four charges, Judge Julian ordered Mr. Hernandez to serve eleven months in the Barnstable House of Correction, to be served concurrently. Mr. Hernandez was taken into custody in the courtroom.
A native of El Salvador, he is likely to face a new investigation by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to determine whether he should be deported. His current rights to supervised visitation with his children may also be examined by the state Department of Children and Families.