Monserrate Teron, the former Army nurse a jury last July found guilty of raping his 7-year-old niece, was sentenced this morning to two life terms, plus 30 years on a molestation charge. Teron turns 60 in two weeks.
There was no mystery about the outcome. Circuit Judge Terence Perkins had little discretion but to impose the mandatory life terms without parole on the two gravest charges, as required by law. The third count carried a 25-years-to-life penalty.
Nevertheless, the hour-long sentencing hearing at times became contentious as Teron or members of his family sought to reassert his innocence and decry what they see as an injustice, while the victim’s mother openly accused that side of the family, including her own mother, of ignoring or covering up Teron’s crime at the expense of her daughter.
The mother of the child victim had flown from her home in Massachusetts for the sentencing, her husband following on Zoom. Several members of Teron’s family sat where they had sat during his two trials (the first ended in deadlock), on the opposite side from the victim’s mother. The case had split the family asunder. The child’s immediate family rallied around her and reported the accusation the moment the child spoke of it. The child’s maternal grandmother and her husband rallied to Teron’s side, as did Teron’s wife and a daughter from a previous marriage.
Its outcome pre-determined, today’s sentencing was a final chance for the two sides to face each other publicly and speak their piece, to the extent that Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark and Perkins allowed it. The child’s mother was given significantly more leeway than were Teron and his family members when they took the stand, angering his wife, whose written statement was stopped short because it was a love letter to her husband rather than a statement to the court.
The judge took Teron’s own written statement and read it to himself, rejecting Teron’s attempts to continue reading it out loud. At one point Brook O’Sullivan, Teron’s attorney, called it a “double standard,” though there was little question that, as Clark noted in one of her objections, the family members statements were verging on openly blaming the victim for lying, as family members had outside the courtroom during the trials.
The victim’s mother, a physician, read her statement off her iPad uninterrupted, toggling between a clinical, social analysis of the damages wrought by child sexual abuse and coverups and wrenchingly personal descriptions of how the case has affected the child and her family.
“Despite fearing that there was a possible risk that him as well as others could derive pleasure in our pain as a family and in my daughter’s pain from everything that’s happened, I’m going to proceed,” the mother said at the outset. She described Teron grooming not just her daughter but “the entire family” for his deeds, causing “an immeasurable amount of unnecessary pain and suffering for all of my family.” She used the words “heinous,” “vicious,” “atrocious,” “despicable,” “detestable” and “deplorable” to describe not only Teron’s acts but “his ongoing enablers,” one of several obvious accusations at the family members in the courtroom.
The statement then briefly sounded more clinical and general, referring to the way “many of these children suffer the initial attack most of the time at the hands of a trusted family member. The second attack, and one that causes as much damage, is the betrayal injury. The realization that those who should protect and love you simply don’t care enough to be bothered by what has happened and has been done to you as a pure and innocent child, not receiving help in the aftermath of this despicable onslaught on the children, can feel as being pummeled to death by betrayal and abandonment.”
It is not uncommon for children of sexual abuse to be dismissed as fabulist or liars by their parents or family members. In this case, the mother spoke of her pride at having responded immediately. “I cry and feel for all the children that have not been as lucky as those and whose parents decided to do nothing,” she said, calling it inexcusable in yet another criticism of the family.
“What is most disgraceful is that the only person left to benefit from such enabling and inaction is the rapist and perpetrator, as has been on display here, where for decades he roamed free and able to rape more children,” she said. “My daughter was one more unnecessary rape.”
Her voice then broke as she described the day-to-day of her daughters’ harrowing lives since. The victim was in kindergarten when the abuse started, almost 9 when she disclosed it, speaking of it then as if it had all been normal, because that’s what Teron had made her believe. She was 11 when she testified in court, at both trials. Her sister, who was largely instrumental in provoking the disclosure, is now 14.
“To see and live through your innocent, beautiful, smart, talented and otherwise happy child be reduced to tears and screams on the floor as she lives what has been done to her while in a panic-stricken stupor is gut-wrenching,” the mother said. “My daughter as she has understood more and more of the betrayal and the assault has been going through terrible difficulty on a daily basis. Many times she screams, ‘It hurts, it hurts,’ multiple times a day. She can’t make it to school on time often as she is paralyzed with fear from simply going to the bathroom. She is often late to events and practice regardless of how much time we give ourselves. My oldest daughter witnesses and hears her little sister suffering in pain and she is devastated, and as a normal 14 year old, annoyed. Her life as she knew it is gone. Our life as we knew it has forever been changed. Our daughter was raped by her uncle.”
She described routine panic attacks, routine triggers from ordinary moments–a shower or getting dressed–and the difficulties of falling asleep, only to then have nightmares. The family is in therapy, draining the family’s finances.
She then called on the court to imprison Teron for life, and again returned to the rest of the family’s role: “Unfortunately, there are many that for their own gain do not seem to think that protecting children is necessary. Since the day I met him around the time when he was marrying my sister in 2014, so many people surrounding him told us, ‘He’s so good with kids. He’s so good with kids.’ It is now nauseating. And there’s not a day that goes by that I wish we had never come across most of them in the room.” She openly called them “enablers,” calling them “disgraceful, selfish, beyond disappointing and excruciatingly hurtful to our family.”
Those on Teron’s side were then given their chance to speak–his wife, the child’s grandmother, his daughter. Soon after his wife began–she retraced their first times together, how she would marry him all over again, how he is “a soldier of God”–Perkins called for a sidebar with the attorneys. O’Sullivan then told Teron’s wife to keep her statement to the merits of the sentencing, and to direct her statement to the judge. Teron’s wife was clearly put off, barely controlling her anger and controlling her sarcasm not at all, even when the judge asked her to identify herself.
“I believe and sustain your innocence of these charges,” she said when she was allowed to resume.
Teron’s mother-in-law drew her share of objections the moment she started referring to other people in the case, then focused on telling family stories and highlighting Teron’s 33 years as an army nurse. His daughter then told the court: “What this court and media have portrayed him to be isn’t who he is. He’s someone who gives 100 percent. 100 percent to his wife, his church, his friends, his patients when he was a nurse for 20 years and his fellow soldiers when he served in the army, but most importantly, his kids. He raised me as a single father from the time that I was around five years old until my wonderful stepmom came about when I was about 12 and he never fell short. He showed up for me. He put 100 percent into everything he did with me. He went as far as acting like mom and dad as one.”
She added: “I don’t feel like justice has been served.” Her voice broke too as she ended her statement–the last time she would be able to address her father in the same room, outside of a prison.
Teron, who had entirely shaved his head and is now sporting a goatee, had been granted the privilege of going without handcuffs during the hearing–a privilege not usually extended other inmates–and spent much of his time on the stand answering his attorney’s questions about his health and his worries about managing it in prison.
The attorneys made their brief arguments, but even O’Sullivan conceded that it would be “bad faith”: for her to argue against the mandatory requirements, since they are mandator. Perkins thanked her for her candor and imposed sentence.
“I sentence you to life, sir, giving you full credit for your time served,” Perkins told Teron, who had walked up to the lectern. His attorney kept an arm on his back in comfort. The judge said the same regarding the second rape count, and though the prosecution had asked for a third life term on the molestation charge, the judge imposed 30 years–an irrelevant difference, whether because of Teron’s age or because of the other two sentences.
Perkins had earlier denied a motion for a new trial, finding no new evidence warranting it. He also declared Teron a sexual predator, though other than the added indignity or whatever hazardous status to Teron’s safety it might impart in prison, the designation has no effective consequences since Teron will not be living in society anymore.
As the victim’s advocate walked the victim’s mother and two friends out of the courtrooms, along with Sgt. Augustin Rodriguez, who had investigated the case, a few words were exchanged between the two sides of the family, in Spanish.
A guilty verdict assumes that “justice has been served,” the victim’s mother had said when she was on the stand. “I argue that Monserrate Teron spending the rest of his days in jail pales in comparison to the pain my daughter, all of his victims and us as a family will have to endure the rest of our lives as a result of his atrocious acts.”