Relative convicted of sexually abusing girl

Erick Alberto Arroyo was convicted Friday on two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and lewd act on a minor.

A respected engineer and retired Navy officer sexually abused a teenage relative for more than a year, a Charleston County jury found.

Erick Alberto Arroyo, a 54-year-old Mount Pleasant man, was convicted Friday on two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and lewd act on a minor. Arroyo must undergo a psychological evaluation prior to his sentencing to determine if he will be classified as a sexual predator.

A 13-year-old girl came forward in 2009 with information that Arroyo, a relative, had abused her for more than a year. Prosecutors said the girl’s mother found Arroyo on top of her daughter. The girl, now 16, testified that Arroyo told her he wanted to teach her about sex so she wouldn’t have to experiment with boys, prosecutors said. His abuse progressed from fondling to sex.

Assistant Solicitor Elizabeth Gordon said the girl took a risk by speaking up, and some family members disowned her because of it.

“It took a great deal of courage to confront the man who had done this to her and to have to testify in great detail in front a room full of strangers about abuse that she so desperately would prefer to forget,” Gordon said in a written statement. “It was obvious the victim was telling the truth, and I am very pleased that the jury could see that.”

The jury heard five days of testimony before deliberating less than four hours to return its guilty verdict, according to prosecutors. Arroyo’s defense attorney, Andy Savage, pointed to a lack of physical evidence in the case but also noted that he did not question the jury’s verdict.

“I’m afraid that the legal system is now skewed that (it) not only ensures conviction of the guilty, which it should, but also does not demand the same quality of evidence in terms of law enforcement investigation and in terms of hard science, that other crimes do,” Savage said.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson pointed out that sex crimes often rely on testimony as opposed to medical reports, a point reinforced by expert testimony during Arroyo’s trial. “Many, if not most, sexual assault cases do not yield evidence of trauma,” Wilson said. “It is not common for there to be physical injury. Females bodies are designed for sexual intercourse and for birthing children. Their bodies can withstand a lot before there is evidence of injury.”

Arroyo faces up to 20 years in prison on the sexual conduct counts and up to 15 years in prison on the lewd act count.

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