Frankie Gamez Garcia receives the maximum term for sexual contact with a 5-year-old Tucson boy.
One of the first Mexican citizens ever extradited from Mexico was sentenced yesterday to 92 years in prison for molesting a Tucson boy.
The sentence came after an unusual hearing that saw a public defender testify against her former client and a defense witness accuse the molested boy’s mother of threatening to make sexual allegations against him.
Frankie Gamez Garcia, 50, was given the maximum sentence on one count of molestation and two counts of engaging in sexual contact with the then-5-year-old boy.
Gamez, a rock singer with the band Frankie y los Matadores, committed the crimes while a guest at the boy’s home in 1992 and 1993. After the jury in his first trial deadlocked, Gamez fled to Hermosillo, Son. He was convicted in absentia in a second trial in July 1994.
The molested boy’s mother launched a relentless campaign to seek Gamez’s return, contacting politicians and passing out leaflets. In an unprecedented sign of cooperation between U.S. and Mexican authorities, Gamez was extradited to Arizona last month. He is one of two Mexican citizens recently extradited to the United States to face criminal charges.
“I spent 2 1/2 years making sure that my son saw justice,’ the boy’s mother said tearfully after the sentencing. “A lot of people never would put themselves through this, because it is hell. (But) I had to do it. There was no choice . . . It was very painful, and there’s no winners here.’
The names of the boy and mother are being withheld to protect the identity of the boy, who is now 9.
Wearing an orange prison suit, Gamez held up two fingers from his cuffed hands and waved to his family and friends as he entered the courtroom. Gamez’s wife and sister spoke on his behalf yesterday in an effort to help him receive a minimum sentence of 72 years.
“I wanted to tell you that I have been innocent from the beginning,’ Gamez told Superior Court Judge Howard Hantman.
But in sentencing Gamez to 92 years, the judge said Gamez displayed an open disregard for the justice system, and for his family’s welfare by defaulting on the $25,000 bond the family had posted.
“He just laughed at the justice system,’ Hantman said.
Gamez’s attorney, Laurie Pennison, said she will appeal the conviction.
Pennison and a character witness for the defense questioned the credibility of the boy’s mother.
Luis Lopez, a guitarist in Gamez’s band who also stayed as a guest at the home, said the boy’s mother wanted to be named manager of the band and demanded royalties from a record deal. She was a fan of the band from the 1960s and had invited the musicians to stay with her.
“It was all about money,’ Lopez testified at yesterday’s sentencing.
Lopez also alleged the mother threatened to accuse him of raping her and of being a child molester if he didn’t cooperate in the prosecution of Gamez.
On cross-examination, prosecutor Richard Green asked Lopez why he had failed to testify at either of Gamez’s trials, and why he hadn’t revealed this information earlier.
Lopez said he had not been subpoenaed.
The mother had prepared a statement to read to the judge during the sentencing, but declined to speak after the judge said the defense could cross-examine her.
Pennison argued that Gamez should receive a minimal sentence because he didn’t have a significant criminal record. She maintained her client didn’t understand the American justice system and didn’t realize he was supposed to return for a second trial.
In an effort to disprove that, prosecutor Green called public defender Carol Wittels to the stand. Wittels represented Gamez in both trials and was replaced as his attorney about a week ago. Wittels testified that Gamez didn’t seem confused about the justice system and was in court when a retrial date was set.
The sexual conduct charges came to light after a 7-year-old playmate heard his older brothers joking about oral sex. The playmate told his brothers he had seen Gamez do that to the victim. The playmate’s mother spoke to the victim’s mother, who called the police.
Two 7-year-old neighborhood boys testified at both trials that they had seen Gamez engage in oral sex with the victim in two separate incidents. Gamez also was convicted of one incident of molestation in which he touched the boy’s penis while he was in bed with the boy and the boy’s mother.
Green said the boy had to receive counseling after the molestation and now sleeps with “instruments’ by his bed to protect himself in case he is attacked.
In urging the maximum sentence, Green said the mother’s and son’s suffering was prolonged after Gamez fled.
“Her son has been damaged, perhaps irrevocably, by what the defendant has done,’ Green said.
Citizen Staff Writer Norman Peckham contributed to this report.