BELTON — Former Nolanville Mayor Charlie Lee Stewart was sentenced Tuesday to 60 years in prison for continuous sexual abuse of a child.
Stewart, 59, showed little emotion as 426th District Court Judge Fancy Jezek read his sentence, but did turn and give a thumbs-up gesture to family members sitting behind him shortly before he was led out of the courtroom.
A Bell County jury found Stewart guilty Oct. 2 of repeatedly raping a 12-year-old female relative over the course of several months in 2011 and 2012.
Stewart will serve his sentence without the possibility of parole, according to prosecutors.
During the trial, jurors not only heard testimony from the victim, but also from four other victims who testified Stewart raped them when they were children. The allegations date back to 1988, and three of the victims were related to Stewart.
Prosecutor Shelley Strimple said Stewart used his position of power and trust as the family’s bread-winner to gain access to the children.
“For 20 years the defendant has fed his sick, sexual desires on his family, and it happened over and over again,” said Strimple, who asked Jezek to hand down a life sentence.
Strimple called the victim’s mother as a witness, who described the impact of Stewart’s crime on her daughter, and the schism it caused within the family.
“It has broken our family apart,” she said.
Defense attorney John Galligan asked the judge to consider Stewart’s service in his community, church and family, and the impact of the mandatory minimum sentence for his client’s conviction, which would be 25 years.
“He’s 59 years old,” Galligan said. “Even a minimum sentence in a case like this would be a death sentence.”
Speaking Tuesday, Galligan confirmed Stewart would file an appeal.
“My hope is that during the course of his appeal, (Stewart) will be vindicated, and be able to return to his family,” Galligan said.
Stewart is the second Nolanville elected official charged with sexually assaulting a child.
Former City Councilman Miguel Aviles pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated sexual assault and was sentenced to 18 years in prison in April 2012.
Contact Chris McGuinness at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.