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Twelve Texans have gone above and beyond the call of jury duty. A Collins County state jury made an unusual decision at the end of hearing three days of testimony from two young women who said they had been sexually abused. After the guilty verdict was read on Jan. 29, the jury approached the prosecutor about setting up a scholarship fund to help the victims: the daughter and stepdaughter of the defendant. With the prosecutor’s cooperation, jurors set up a trust account to support the victims’ education. They are trying to raise money to cover the first semester’s tuition for one of the victims, now 21, to attend a police academy. “I was amazed,” said Assistant District Attorney Curtis Howard, of the crimes against children unit. “This was such a great gesture to help these girls.” Howard said that it was the first time in his six-year career that a jury offered financial support to the victims. The stepdaughter, now 21, was allegedly molested by her stepfather from the time she was 11. The natural daughter, now a 14-year-old high school student, notified authorities that her father had been molesting her for several months. After hearing their stories, the jury knew it needed to help them, according to juror Chris Moore, a technology company employee out of Allen, Texas. “We looked at each other and said we’ve got to do something beyond putting this guy away,” he said. Life terms The 39-year-old defendant was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and two counts of indecency with a child. He was sentenced to two life terms and will be eligible for parole in 30 years, according to the prosecution. State of Texas v. R., No. 296-82124-02 82125. The defendant’s attorney, Lee Salas of McKinney, Texas, did not return calls. “It was a pretty normal case,” Howard said. The jury did hear some emotional details, he said, including the accusation that the defendant impregnated the stepdaughter. The girl gave birth to a child under the pretense that it was fathered by someone she worked with, according to Howard. For the jurors, however, the trial was anything but normal. “It shocked me that anyone could be so horrible and cruel to his own children,” said Allyson Wender, 26, a sales representative for a world technology company, who was the forewoman of the jury. “These girls deserve a chance.” During deliberations, several jurors said that they wished they could help, and Wender asked the bailiff if such an action would be permissible. “No one thought we could do it,” said Wender, who has taken the lead in administering the trust. “I think jurors are afraid that they are legally not able to get involved.” All but one juror who was financially unable agreed to contribute to the trust fund. Friends and family of the jurors have expressed a desire to contribute, said Wender, as well as people who wrote in to a newspaper that covered the jury’s action. The money will go mainly for police academy training for the older girl, which is typically $2,000 to $3,000, Howard said. The jury also plans to help the younger girl, in a way to be determined later, since she is in high school. McAree’s e-mail address is [email protected].

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