Nathan Maxwell was sentenced to 70 years in prison for aggravated sexual assault of a child and another 20 years for sexual assault of a child on May 26 following a punishment trial in which Maxwell pled guilty and requested a Fort Bend County jury asses his punishment.
The 36-year-old Baytown man was tried and sentenced in the 434th District Court by Judge Chad Bridges, Presiding Judge of the 240th District Court. Prosecutors Laurel Ellisor and Lisa P. Gregg presented evidence that the defendant manipulated a young girl into an escalating course of sexual conduct for a period of years beginning when she was 11 years old until she disclosed the molestation to her mother at the age of 15.
Following the disclosure to her mother, authorities with the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office investigated the allegations and filed criminal charges. Facing punishment ranging from a life sentence in the penitentiary to only five years’ probation for the first-degree felony of aggravated sexual assault of a child, Maxwell chose to testify before the jury and admitted committing multiple offenses in addition to the two formal charges before the jury.
The defendant apparently hoped the jury would show some degree of leniency if he expressed appropriate remorse and took responsibility for his crimes. Testimony showed that he had enjoyed a childhood full of extracurricular activities and an active social life. The defendant also testified he enrolled in the National Guard and served two tours of duty in Iraq.
The defense presented evidence about positive aspects of Maxwell’s life, and asked that the jury consider Maxwell’s entire life and not just the criminal conduct before them. The defendant’s mother, sister, and a priest whom the defendant had been assigned to protect while serving in Iraq, testified on his behalf as well.
The child whom Maxwell committed the offenses against – now an adult, testified about the several years of abuse she experienced and the effect it has had on her life. She relayed how the defendant frequently said he would stop, but then would cry and continue to engage her in sexual activity.
Maxwell also engaged in emotionally abusive behavior by repeatedly telling the child he loved her and wanted to marry her, despite the fact that he was already married. Both of the child’s parents, her aunt, and a therapist testified on behalf of the state.
During closing arguments, prosecutors contrasted the defendant’s childhood with that of the child whose innocence he stole. Ellisor asked the jury for a harsh sentence and the jury listened. In less than two hours they assessed a 70-year sentence in the aggravated sexual assault case and the maximum 20 years on the second-degree felony sexual assault he’d pled guilty to.
Gregg, the Deputy Chief of the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office Child Abuse Division, stated, “The trials of child abuse cases are difficult for everyone involved. We know that testimony about sexual abuse is not easy for witnesses to provide or for a jury to hear. It is not easy for people to even tell when someone has sexually abused them, and it is very emotional when the abuse occurred when the person was a child. The child in this case was abused by someone she and her family trusted, someone who was supposed to protect her. Too often children hide what is happening to them. We want children to know sexual abuse is never their fault, and there will be help when they come forward.”
Lead prosecutor Laurel Ellisor said “Listening to testimony in these cases is difficult, and the jury in this case listened carefully to all evidence presented. This jury sent a strong message to child abuse victims and to sexual offenders that the citizens of Fort Bend County will not tolerate child abuse – period. We are so proud of this young lady and all of the children who come forward when they have been abused. They are all our heroes.”
Ellisor and Gregg also had praise for the jurors in the case and acknowledge that testimony in child abuse cases is not pleasant to listen to and jurors perform a vital role in the criminal justice system.