BELTON — A Killeen man who pleaded guilty in a Bell County courtroom last summer to sexually assaulting a child was sentenced this week — 15 years after the assaults began.
Scott Michael Bristol, 53, pleaded guilty in the 27th Judicial District Court in June of 2019 and had been out of jail on bond before being taken into custody by deputies after the Thursday hearing.
Judge John Gauntt sentenced Bristol to 12 years in prison for aggravated assault of a child and signed a protective order to ensure Bristol never can contact the victim, who is now in her 20s.
She had the last word. Her family and friends were in the courtroom supporting her as she faced Bristol for a victim’s statement.
“I can’t recall any happy memories with you and the bad far outweighs any good,” she said. “I’ve overcome all of this over the years but I’ll never understand why you did this to me.”
In 2010, she first told a friend about the abuse that began in 2005, when she was 12 years old, and continued until she was 15 years old. She was 17 when she made her outcry. The friend then told the girl’s mother about the assault and abuse that happened “on numerous occasions.”
Her mother reported the assaults to Killeen police on Nov. 5, 2010.
Bristol was indicted on the first-degree felony charge on Dec. 14, 2011, but the case languished for more than eight years before its resolution on Thursday.
Assistant District Attorney Debbie Garrett told the Herald that Bristol had moved to Canada and then fought extradition, accounting for many of those years.
Arguments and testimony
The judge heard one last witness for the defense, as well as closing arguments, before making his ruling on punishment.
Bristol’s defense attorney, Douglas Ranney, asked the judge to consider a probated sentence or deferred adjudication probation after a forensic psychologist testified that his client was unlikely to re-offend and would be responsive to sex offender treatment.
“He’s a 50-plus-year-old man with no previous criminal history,” Ranney said in his closing argument. “Incarceration is not always the right answer.”
Garrett did not want the judge to forget about the victim and asked that he impose the full 30 years that was the cap as part of the plea agreement.
“While he was starting a new life and family in Canada, he left scars behind that continue,” she said. “He’d come into her room at night (and sexually assault her). She’d suffer in pain for days and to this day has scars. He victimized her over and over again, and her life as an adolescent was, in her words, ‘pure hell.’”
Garrett said that the victim had to push a chair up against her bedroom door to try to keep Bristol out.
Matthew Ferrara, a forensic psychologist, testified that several clinical assessments showed Bristol to be low risk and that he could be treated with cognitive therapy.
“He’s a ‘situational offender,’ and they have a much lower recidivism rate,” Ferrara said. “If you put a low-risk offender in prison they become high-risk, so you have a low-risk offender walking in the door and you don’t know who is walking out the back door.”
Ferrara said that Bristol had shown accountability for his actions, but Garrett pointed out that Bristol’s words refer to the years of assaults as “it.”
“He does not name ‘it,’ does he?” she asked.
“No,” Ferrara replied.
Garrett also took issue with Ferrara’s analysis of recidivism rates when, statistically, child sex assault is vastly underreported.
“Nothing is perfect, so these instruments aren’t perfect,” Ferrara said.
In her closing, Garrett said that one thing is for sure.
“If he’s incarcerated, we in the community know he’s not re-offending against children,” she said.