Facing a potential 600 years in prison had he gone to trial and lost, former Brownwood Police Sgt. Vince Ariaz took a deal Tuesday and was sentenced to a pair of concurrent 20-year prison terms.
Visiting Judge Don Lane approved a plea bargain in which Ariaz, 54, pleaded guilty to two counts of sexual assault of a child and no contest to one count of indecency with a child.
Ariaz was accused of having sexual contact with two teenage female Brownwood Police Explorers. Ariaz was the post’s adviser when he was arrested at the Brownwood Coliseum Annex on July 17, 2007.
A Brown County Grand Jury had returned two indictments against Ariaz. One indictment alleged 27 counts of sexual assault and two counts of indecency, all involving the same girl. The other indictment alleged a single count of indecency against another girl.
Sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child are second degree felonies and had sentencing ranges of 2 to 20 years, prosecutors have said.
Had Ariaz been convicted on all 30 counts and received the maximum sentence on each count, a judge could have stacked each count for 600 years, District Attorney Micheal Murray said. Ariaz will be required to serve 10 years of his sentence before being eligible for parole, Murray said.
“Obviously we’re satisfied with the maximum punishment on this particular case,” Murray said. “We felt like it was particularly a heinous offense given the fact that it was a police officer-involved offense.
“It involved a police Explorer Cadet. We thought because of the nature in which it happened, it was certainly a crime that deserved the maximum punishment.”
Tuesday’s sentencing hearing lasted about 15 minutes, with a few routine pieces of information exchanged between Murray, Lane and Ariaz’ attorney, Jim Lane of Fort Worth.
With his attorney next to him and his wife, Carla, seated a few rows behind him, Ariaz stood, entered his pleas and heard Lane assess the sentence. Ariaz showed no reaction as he placed his hands behind his back and courthouse deputy Dennis Watson placed handcuffs on his wrists.
A few minutes later, deputies escorted Ariaz out of the courthouse and placed him in a patrol car for a trip to the Brown County Jail. Ariaz made no response when asked if he wished to comment.
Grand jurors handed down the indictments on Sept. 6, and they were made public Tuesday.
Authorities alleged in court documents that Ariaz fondled a female Explorer in 2004, and that he had sexual contact with another female Explorer 29 times between May 24 and July 17, 2007.
Before Tuesday’s sentencing, Ariaz had been free on bonds of $200,000. He had been confined to house arrest and on electronic monitoring as conditions of his bonds.
A law firm representing the family of one of the Explorer victims has asked the City of Brownwood to negotiate a settlement in lieu of a lawsuit. City officials have turned the claim over to the city’s insurance carrier.