A Tehama County man will likely spend the rest of his life in prison thanks to testimony of the two women he molested when they were just five- and six-years-old.
A Tehama County Superior Court Jury on Monday found 68-year-old Leslie Gordon Smith guilty of five felony counts of lewd acts upon a child. Smith had already been serving prison time after a 2007 molestation conviction. He had already served time before that after a similar conviction in 1992.
But prosecutors say this later verdict would have never happened had the two victims, now 18-years-old, had not found the courage to go forward and testify, roughly 12 years after they were molested by Smith.
"It was powerful testimony," said Deputy District Attorney Jim Waugh. "And I know it was tough for the both of them."
The case broke out of the blue in 2012 when public school employee came forward to authorities and reported a conversation she had with a student. That student told the school employee that her friend told her about being molested several years ago.
"Under the law, school employees are mandated to report incidents like that, so that got the ball rolling with this case," Waugh said.
During the trial, the victims testified they were family friends of Smith's daughter. Each victim explained how Smith took advantage of his position of trust by sexually abusing them at an early age. Smith also testified during the trial. He acknowledged knowing the victims but denied molesting them. He also denied his guilt in the prior cases, stating he pleaded guilty back then to "protect the victims there."
Tehama County District Attorney Gregg Cohen praised the two women's roles leading to Smith's conviction.
"Both victims who testified in the case were very strong, determined young women who wanted nothing more than justice," Cohen said. "Neither victim was scornful or appeared vindictive. They just wanted justice to prevail.
Smith is expected to be sentenced on March 17.