Article by Robin Fitzgerald appeared in the Sun Herald online edition on October 18, 2017.
A Long Beach man has been sentenced to a 15-year prison sentence to be served day for day for molesting a child who was a family member at the time.
The girl, now 6 years old, testified against Michael Anthony Gros, 32, in a two-day trial that ended late Tuesday in Harrison County Circuit Court, District Attorney Joel Smith said in a news release.
Judge Chris Schmidt imposed the maximum prison term for the crime and ordered Gros to register as a sex offender on his release from prison.
The jury reached its verdict in less than an hour, convicting Gros on a charge of touching a child for lustful purposes, Smith said.
The girl and her mother testified, telling the court about the night Gros sexually assaulted the child in August 2016, he said.
The jury watched a video-recorded interview in which a forensic interviewer from the Child Advocacy Center in Gulfport interviewed the girl.
“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,” Chief Assistant DA Crosby Parker.
Parker, in his closing argument, told the jury that a child, like an adult, has the right to be believed, he said. What she revealed in a child-like vocabulary was descriptive and graphic, and she would not have been able to know how to describe the sex crime if it had not happened, Parker said.
After the jury returned its verdict, Schmidt heard a letter from the child’s mother on how it has affected her and her daughter.
Smith said Schmidt told the court, “(Gros) was grooming the victim for future sexual abuse.”
“This case highlights the importance of having a strong Child Advocacy Center here on the Coast of Mississippi,” Smith said.
“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.”
ADA Chris Carter assisted in the prosecution.
The Long Beach Police Department investigated the case.
Gros had disappeared about a week before he was arrested Aug. 18, 2016, and served with his indictment. His family had reported him missing.