LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - A 6-year-old girl's testimony about being sexually abused convinced a jury to convict a 32-year-old man this week of unlawful touching of a child for lustful purposes.
Michael Anthony Gros received the maximum punishment allowed and will serve 15 years without parole. Circuit Court Judge Christopher Schmidt said the sentence was appropriate because Gros "was grooming the victim for future sexual abuse."
During the trial, the victim testified that in August of 2016 the defendant molested her. Following the child's testimony, her mother took the stand and described the night at their home in Long Beach when her daughter first told her of the abuse at the hands of the defendant.
The jury was also able to view a video recorded interview of the child that was conducted almost immediately after the crime was reported by a forensic interviewer from the Child Advocacy Center located in Gulfport.
"After showing the video to the jury, the trained interviewer was able to provide expert testimony describing for the jury how children of that age are able to view traumatic events and later communicate those memories to adults," said Chief Assistant DA Crosby Parker, who tried the case with ADA Chris Carter.
During closing argument, Parker argued that a child, just like an adult, has every right to be believed in our courtrooms, and this child should be believed because her disclosures were so descriptive and in such graphic detail. He pointed out to the jury that an adolescent of the age of six would not know how to describe the specific details of a sexual crime in a child-like vocabulary unless they actually experienced the abuse.
After receiving the jury's verdict, Judge Schmidt heard a written letter from the mother of the victim regarding how the defendant's actions have affected both her and her child.
The 15-year sentence will be served day for day without the eligibility of probation or parole. Upon his release, Gros will have to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life.
"This case highlights the importance of having a strong Child Advocacy Center here on the Coast of Mississippi. We are fortunate that Canopy Children's Solutions has provided such a foundational operation lending a voice to children in the justice system. Their training and professionalism led to a child molester being held accountable for his actions and allowing a child to receive justice this week," said DA Joel Smith.