BELTON — A rape charge against former Nolanville mayor Charlie Lee Stewart was upgraded to a more serious felony.
Stewart, 59, was charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child, a first-degree felony. On Friday, a judge arraigned him on a new charge, continuous sexual abuse.
It carries a harsher minimum sentence. If convicted, Stewart would face at least 25 years in jail. The charge stems from an allegation that he sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl in the summer of 2011. Investigators believe Stewart assaulted the girl multiple times during a two-month period.
A grand jury indicted Stewart on the continuous sexual abuse charge Dec. 19, but its action was not made public. A copy of the indictment obtained Friday lists three instances in which Stewart allegedly raped the 12-year-old and one incident in which he molested her.
Nolanville police learned of the allegation after the girl told her mother. The woman contacted Nolanville police and gave them a written statement.
The girl then told a forensic investigator at the Bell County Children’s Advocacy Center that Stewart assaulted her multiple times that summer, according to an arrest affidavit.
Police arrested Stewart on July 20. He has been in Bell County Jail since then with bail set at $500,000.
Stewart is now represented by Belton defense lawyer John Galligan, his third attorney since July. His first attorney left the case after a failed attempt to reduce Stewart’s bail. His second attorney’s reason for departure is unknown. The court appointed Galligan to the case.
Stewart forfeited his position as mayor in September after missing three consecutive Nolanville City Council meetings due to his incarceration. He won the office after a close election in May 2010.
He is the second Nolanville council member in less than two years to be charged with sexually assaulting a child.
Former councilman Miguel Aviles pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Aviles resigned his seat prior to his arrest on Sept. 28, 2011. He is serving his sentence in a Navasota prison.