FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – A former swimming instructor has been found guilty of molesting three young girls.
Francisco de Aragon, 28, was charged with sexually assaulting the girls while he was teaching them at the Deerfield Beach Aquatics Center in 2015.
A Broward County court bailiff immediately placed handcuffs on de Aragon after he was found guilty on the first count – capital sexual battery on a child.
As the reality of an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole sat in, tears streamed down his face.
De Aragon was found guilty on all five counts leveled again his.
Earlier this week, each of the girls, who were 6 years old at the time, testified that de Aragon groped them under their swimsuits during the lesson.
But de Aragon took the witness stand Thursday, telling the jury he was innocent of all charges.
“I would never in a million years molest a child,” de Aragon said.
The girls were driven from their school to the aquatics center. One girl testified she didn’t tell anyone at the aquatics center because she says she was scared.
De Aragon told the jury that he has been in aquatics all his life and has been a competitive swimmer, a lifeguard and water safety instructor.
He testified it was possible there was “accidental contact” with the three girls and implied they misinterpreted his actions when he was teaching them how to float in the water.
After leaving the stand, and after the jury left the courtroom, de Aragon broke down in tears.
In closing arguments, prosecutors told the jury that they would have to believe all three girls made up a story to acquit de Aragon.
Before the start of the trial, de Aragon turned down a plea deal that would have sent him to prison for 25 years.
De Aragon was found guilty of count of capital sexual battery, three counts of lewd and lascivious acts and one count of battery. The first charge carries an automatic sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The girls’ families did not want to comment following the verdict but prosecutors applauded the decision of the four men and two women jury.
“We’re thrilled with the verdict. The parents couldn’t be happier. We’re happy it’s over and happy that they came forward and they told and got through it,” said prosecutor Stacey Horowitz.
De Aragon’s defense attorney told CBS4 News, he plans to appeal.