Thursday, August 24, 2006

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Former Martial Arts Instructor Sentenced To Life In Prison For Raping Child In Case Prosecuted By Abbott's Office

ALICE – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott hailed a guilty verdict handed down by a Jim Wells County jury against the owner of a martial arts studio in Orange Grove who sexually assaulted a 12-year-old female student and videotaped the assault. The jury deliberated only 20 minutes Wednesday before convicting Melchor Hawkins, 64, of four counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child and one count each of possession of child pornography and sexual performance by a child.

Hawkins was sentenced Thursday afternoon to a maximum life sentence on each of the four aggravated sexual assault counts to run concurrently. He was also sentenced to the maximum 10 years on the two other counts to run consecutively. Hawkins was also ordered to pay the maximum $10,000 fine for each of the six counts.

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Melchor Hawkins

“Child sex crimes victimize young Texans, robbing them of their innocence, security and hope,” Attorney General Abbott said. “The people of Jim Wells County are outraged by the predatory nature of this crime, and it is gratifying that Melchor Hawkins will be held accountable for his crimes. I appreciate the cooperation of the Orange Grove Police Department, the Texas Rangers, and the Texas Department of Public Safety in seeing that justice was done for this precious girl.”

The evidence and testimony showed that Hawkins, who also has operated studios in Kingsville, Falfurrias, and Hebbronville, had scheduled a karate class for the young girl and her brother on Dec. 20, 2005. During the course of the instruction, Hawkins led the girl to a private back room of the studio, where he assaulted her and videotaped the assault. The 30-minute videotape was a key piece of evidence in the trial.

Hawkins was arrested on Dec. 22, 2005, by officers with the Orange Grove Police Department and the Texas Rangers after the girl alerted her mother, who immediately notified law enforcement officials. The police department subsequently searched Hawkins’ Orange Grove residence and his studio. The Texas Rangers conducted the investigation.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Tanner prosecuted the case at the request of Jim Wells County District Attorney Joe Frank Garza.

Attorney General Abbott has made pursuing sexual predators a top priority of his administration. The Cyber Crimes Unit, which targets online predators, and the Fugitive Unit, which locates convicted child sex offenders who have violated the terms of their parole and could be stalking children, have combined for nearly 500 arrests of such offenders since Abbott took office in December 2002. His office also has obtained convictions against 49 men on child pornography charges.

To find out more about Attorney General Abbott’s efforts to crack down on sexual predators, visit the Attorney General’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov or call (800) 252-8011.