What to Know
- A foster father who took in more than 100 boys over 20 years is set to go on trial on charges he sexually abused eight of the children
- Prosecutors also said the man, Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, sexually abused a dog in front of a child
- He was arrested in January 2016 after authorities said two boys in his care reported alleged abuse to a caseworker
A Long Island foster father accused of sexually abusing six of the more than 100 boys he cared for over two decades was acquitted Tuesday of all charges against him.
The verdict came on the seventh day of jury deliberations in Suffolk County in a case that put a national focus on the foster care system.
Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, was cleared of 17 counts involving abuse of the children. Many of the boys had mental, intellectual, emotional and behavioral issues.
One mentally challenged man testified that Gonzales-Mugaburu molested him for about three years beginning when he was 10. The man, now 21, said it left him confused.
Another foster son, Mark Gonzales-Mugaburu, told News 4 after the verdict that the man who "was supposed to be my dad" abused him from the age of 8, and that it continued for nearly a decade.
"I'm going to speak on behalf of myself, but for my brothers, he said the same thing: 'If you say anything to the public, I will kill you,'" he said.
"I was one of the first kids, and he's had about 200 kids," said Mark. "I've seen everything in that house."
Gonzales-Mugaburu's attorney, Donald Mates, had argued that the accusers had concocted stories of abuse.
"As I sat through the trial, it became more apparent to me that I didn't believe any of the young men who testified," he said after the verdict. "This is vindication. From Day One, when I met Cesar, he told me he didn't do this. I looked at him and believed him."
He predicted his client, who did not testify in his own defense, would never be able to restore his reputation. He said no decision has been made on whether to sue for false arrest.
Jury foreman Tim Carney said he voted not guilty on all counts from the beginning because there were too many holes in the prosecution's case.
"I could not put a man away for the rest of his life on what they gave us - the evidence they produced," Carney said.
Newsday reported that Carney said he believed the testimony of some of the accusers, but the prosecution did not introduce evidence to support those accounts.
Prosecutors had painted the Ridge man as a monster and blamed the foster care system for lax oversight at his Long Island home.
An 83-page report released by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota this year contended systemic failures allowed Gonzales-Mugaburu to take in more than 100 children over 20 years. It noted that he had been the subject of 18 child abuse investigations. None of those investigations led to criminal charges until his arrest in January 2016.
It's been 12 years since Mark Gonzales-Mugaburu lived in the home, and he says the system has continued to fail him.
"I spoke out when I was 8," he told News 4. "My mission was to stop him from fostering kids any further when I was at the age of 8 or 9. The system failed me then. When I was 16, nothing happened."
Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu was released from custody after the verdict, but his attorney won't disclose where he is staying. His previous home was boarded up.
Mates previously said he disagreed with the findings in the report. There never was any reason for the agencies to fail to uncover abuse because, he said, it never happened.
Mates also said that at least some of the accusers had a financial reason to see Gonzales-Mugaburu convicted because they have sued an agency that placed them in his home.
Spota said in a statement that prosecutors were "extremely disappointed" with the verdict.
"We will continue to pursue justice in cases involving the sexual abuse of children," he said. "For those discouraged by this outcome, it is important to guard against any chilling effect that might result; especially a reluctance to report abuse."