By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — An Anderson man was found guilty of two counts of sexual misconduct with a minor on Friday afternoon.
Joseph A. Esparza, 49, was convicted by a jury at the conclusion of a four-day trial in Judge Dennis Carroll's Madison Circuit Court 6.
The charges stem from an incident on March 23 when Esparza sexually attacked a 15-year-old in his home in the 400 block of North County Road 650 West, Anderson, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Esparza was at the house with his girlfriend, five family members and friends, and the victim, each of whom had differing and contradicting stories about the incident in interviews with detectives, according to the affidavit. In a later interview, one of the friends of the teenage girl admitted to lying to police, and a warrant was issued for Esparza’s arrest, according to the affidavit.
Esparza eluded law enforcement in Madison County and U.S. marshals for nearly four months before being arrested Dec. 8, 2012. According to Madison County Sheriff Ron Richardson, Esparza fled authorities in Madison County after a warrant for his arrest was filed on Aug. 17, 2012. Esparza was tracked to California, Las Vegas and Nashville before marshals arrested him, Richardson said.
The teenage victim embraced family and friends outside the courtroom after the verdict was read. She said she wasn't fully ready to talk to the media, but said she feels extremely relieved.
"We're all very happy to know the system worked here," said the victim's grandmother. "We appreciate that the state did such an excellent job. It was a solid case, and you could tell because it didn't take long for the verdict to come back."
The jury took about 45 minutes to reach the unanimous decision.
Deputy prosecutors Stephanie Wade and Jeff Lockwood and defense attorney Zaki Ali admitted the case was a difficult one because of lies told by several witnesses throughout the investigation. Esparza asked the teenagers at the home to lie to police about details of the incident, so several stories were told.
"But one thing remained the same: Esparza was there, in the room, with the victim," Wade said. "A voicemail message from the victim to her boyfriend clearly placed him in the house."
Ali said cases like this involving young victims yield no winners.
According to Carroll, sentencing will be Oct. 22 at 9 a.m. in Court 6.
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