A decorated U.S. Army sergeant will spend the rest of his life in prison after being found guilty of sexually abusing several young girls.

State District Judge Frank J. Castro sentenced Martin Balleza to 99 years with no chance of parole on a count of continuous sexual abuse of a child involving several young girls. He then added a 10-year sentence for sexual assault of a child. The two terms will be served consecutively.

During her closing arguments, the San Antonio attorney who defended Balleza invoked the #MeToo movement, saying his accusers had lied, and the state had brought forth no proof that it happened.

“We need proof,” defense attorney Monica E. Guerrero told the jurors.

She reminded the panel there was no DNA evidence presented that established the assaults occurred and that the state brought “a parade of witnesses to say he did this, he did that.” The state’s case came down to his word versus the children, she said.

Guerrero told the jury that in 2018, anything goes to ruin someone’s reputation and career. She referenced the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee to the U.S Supreme Court, who has been accused of sexual assault and misconduct.

“This guy gave up his life to go to Iraq, to Afghanistan, he’s a decorated sergeant,” Guerrero told the jury. “You’re talking about taking away someone’s liberty.

“They have nothing. No medical evidence, no physical evidence, nothing. Give me a break,” Guerrero said.

“Supreme Court? Kavanaugh? Really,” prosecutor Daryl Harris told the jury in his closing rebuttal. “His military service does not mitigate what he did; his service didn’t mean he’s telling the truth” about the sex abuse allegations.

He told the jury that DNA tests were conducted, but nothing was found because tests were conducted days after the alleged incidents.

This week, jurors heard two children, 9 and 11, use their own words to describe oral sex, fondling and attempted assault by the staff sergeant. They also heard from the 16-year-old, who testified that she fought off Balleza.

The defendant’s brother, Steven Balleza, told the jury his brother admitted to some of the allegations against him after they spoke when the staff sergeant was hospitalized after he tried to kill himself when the outcry was made.

Harris reminded the panel that the defendant practically confessed to his brother, who came home from a business trip after learning of the suicide attempt.

“That (the confession) was his only attempt at being decent,” Harris said. “He says everybody is lying. Real men don’t hide behind children.”

An active-duty staff sergeant at the time of the alleged incidents, Balleza was assigned to the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.

He joined the Army in 1997 and worked as a chemical operations specialist. He has been deployed three times to Afghanistan and once to Iraq, and received numerous medals of commendation, according to an Army spokeswoman.

CORRECTION: This article has been updated to correct the counts that Balleza was found guilty on by the jury.

———

©2018 the San Antonio Express-News

Visit the San Antonio Express-News at www.mysanantonio.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.