VERNAL — A Vernal man became so emotional after a Uintah County jury convicted him Thursday night in a bizarre rape and kidnapping case that he had to be picked up off the floor by bailiffs and assisted from the courtroom.
A jury of seven men and one woman deliberated for more than two hours before returning guilty verdicts against Gerber Arceli Flores on five counts of aggravated sexual assault, a first-degree felony.
Flores, 31, was also found guilty of three counts of child kidnapping, one count each of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary and forcible sodomy, and three counts of domestic violence in the presence of a child.
Witnesses testified during the three-day trial that Flores held an ex-girlfriend and her three children against their will inside the woman's apartment for two days in December 2012.
The woman told officers Flores sexually assaulted her at least twice a day and would "force chocolates into her mouth" during the attacks, according to court records.
Flores also threatened to throw the woman out an upstairs window if she tried to get help, and told her children he would kill them and conceal their bodies in the apartment's walls, police said.
"She was brutalized," Uintah County Attorney G. Mark Thomas said Friday, noting that the jury was shown photographs taken after the ordeal of the woman's bruised, battered and bitten body.
The prosecutor said he watched Flores throughout the trial and "his body language didn't indicate concern about any of the evidence that was coming in."
Attorney Bryan Sidwell, who was hired by Flores' public defender to handle the jury trial, said his client has stated from his first interview with police that the sexual contact with his ex-girlfriend was consensual.
"His position has always been that this is what they did sexually," Sidwell said. "He does not believe he raped her. He does not believe he kidnapped her."
Both Sidwell and Thomas said Flores, who was aided throughout the trial by an interpreter, began to cry as the jury's verdict was read just before 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
"I think he was surprised (by the verdict)," Sidwell said. "He's always maintained his innocence and didn't believe he would be found guilty."
Flores became so distraught after the jury was excused that Judge Clark McClellan decided to schedule a separate hearing to discuss a sentencing date, Thomas said. The judge then left the bench and Thomas said he exited the courtroom to meet with the victim.
"(Flores) was quite emotional at that point. There was really loud crying," the prosecutor said. "I looked back into the courtroom and he was on the ground."
One courtroom observer said Flores fell to the floor and was weeping.
Additional bailiffs were called in to lift Flores off the floor and assist him from the courtroom. He was returned to the Uintah County Jail, where he has been held without bail since his arrest in January.
Flores is due back in court Oct. 22 for a status hearing on sentencing. He faces a mandatory term of 15 years to life in prison on each of the child kidnapping charges. Both the aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault charges also carry mandatory minimum sentences of six, 10 or 15 years to life in prison.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: GeoffLiesik