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Ramon Ponce-Torres v. The State of Texas
Third Court of Appeals, Austin, Texas
Aggravated sexual assault of a child
Case Number: 03-16-00099-CR
Judge: Jeff Rose
Court: TEXAS COURT OF APPEALS, THIRD DISTRICT, AT AUSTIN
Ms. Lisa Stewart
Description: Ponce-Torres was indicted on six counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, six
counts of indecency with a child by contact, and four counts of indecency with a child by exposure.
At trial, the victim testified that when she was five and six years old she stayed with neighbors
Ponce-Torres and his wife while her mother worked at night. The victim testified that Ponce-Torres
sexually abused her on several occasions and told her not to tell anyone. She testified that the abuse
stopped when she and her mother moved and her mother got a day job.
The victim’s mother M.G. testified that when her daughter was four or five, Ponce
Torres’s wife was their babysitter, but that arrangement ceased when M.G. and her daughter moved.
M.G. testified about changes in her daughter’s behavior and school attendance. M.G. stated that her
daughter told a school employee that Ponce-Torres had sexually abused her. The school employee
in charge of truancy and student behavioral issues testified that the victim said her babysitter’s
husband had sexually abused her and threatened to hurt her if she reported it. The employee took the
victim to the school counselor, who spoke with the victim until police arrived.
The police officer who responded to the call from the school testified that the victim
told him about two separate occasions when she was sexually abused by Ponce-Torres. The officer
stated that he wrote a report and notified detectives. The detective assigned to the case testified that
he spoke with the victim, her mother, and Ponce-Torres. The detective stated that Ponce-Torres’s
interview was conducted in Spanish and recorded. The detective testified that Ponce-Torres initially
admitted that he had touched the victim for his sexual gratification but at the end of the interview
he denied everything. The videotaped interview and a certified translation and transcription of the
interview were admitted into evidence.
The doctor who evaluated the victim testified that the victim said she had been
sexually abused by Ponce-Torres when he and his wife were her babysitters. The doctor testified that
the victim’s exam was normal, but that she was small for her age. A psychologist also testified about
sexual abuse generally, noting that in 90% of sexual abuse cases the perpetrators know their victims.
He described for the jury the process of “grooming,” stated that it is common for child victims not
to tell anyone about their abuse for years, and discussed the effect of sexual abuse on children.
Ponce-Torres put on no evidence during the guilt-innocence phase of trial. The jury
found Ponce-Torres guilty of three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child (as alleged in Count
I/Paragraph I, Count IV/Paragraph III, and Count VI/Paragraph V) and one count of indecency with
a child (as alleged in Count XI/Paragraph VII).
Several witnesses testified during the punishment phase of the case, including Officer
John Ligon, a deportation officer with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Ligon testified that
aggravated sexual assault of a child is an aggravated felony that subjects noncitizens to deportation,
and that it would be rare for someone convicted of that offense to be allowed to remain in the United
States. According to Ligon, a person convicted of an aggravated felony and given probation would
be taken into custody by immigration officials and begin removal proceedings, but a person
convicted of an aggravated felony and given a prison sentence would serve his sentence before being
deported. Ligon testified that Ponce-Torres was from Landa, Queretaro in Mexico and was currently
in removal proceedings because he was undocumented and gave no legal reason for being in the
United States. Ligon testified that Ponce-Torres had an immigration detainer placed on him and
went into ICE custody on May 22, 2014. Ligon further testified that he brought Ponce-Torres’s ICE
file with him, which contained identifying information such as Ponce-Torres’s photograph and
fingerprints, and that the date of birth provided by Ponce-Torres fit the information that ICE had.
Ligon testified that because Ponce-Torres was convicted, his file would be sent to immigration trial
attorneys to confer with a field office director and determine whether Ponce-Torres’s immigration
case would go before an immigration judge or proceed with an administrative order of removal.
Ligon testified that in cases involving aggravated sexual assault of a child, the convicted person is
During Ligon’s testimony, the prosecutor offered Exhibit 8—a one-page exhibit from
Ponce-Torres’s ICE file that contained information including his photograph, fingerprints, date of
birth, and country of permanent residence —relying on the business-records exception to the hearsay
rule. See Tex. R. Evid. 801(d), 803(6). Ponce-Torres objected that the exhibit was hearsay, lacked
a proper foundation for admission, and was not accompanied by a business-records affidavit. The
court overruled the objections and admitted the exhibit.
Ponce -Torres’s punishment was assessed at ten years’ imprisonment each on Counts
I and IV, five years’ imprisonment on Count VI, and five years’ imprisonment probated for five years
on Count XI, to run consecutively with the ten-year sentences on Counts I and IV. This appeal
In his only appellate issue, Ponce-Torres contends that the district court erred in
overruling his hearsay objection to Exhibit 8, the one page from his ICE file. We review a trial
court’s ruling on the admission of evidence under an abuse of discretion standard and uphold the trial
court’s ruling if it is within the zone of reasonable disagreement. Tillman v. State, 354 S.W.3d 425,
435 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011). The improper admission of evidence “‘will not result in reversal when
other such evidence was received without objection, either before or after the complained-of ruling.’”
Coble v. State, 330 S.W.3d 253, 282 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010) (quoting Leday v. State,
983 S.W.2d 713, 718 (Tex. Crim. App. 1998)).
Here, Ponce-Torres contends that the district court erred in overruling his hearsay
objection to Exhibit 8 because it was not accompanied by a business-records affidavit and because
the State did not offer the exhibit through ICE’s custodian of records or through “another qualified
witness.” See Tex. R. Evid. 803(6). However, even if we were to conclude that the court erred by
admitting the complained-of evidence, Ponce-Torres has not shown that he was harmed by it. See
Tex. R. App. P. 44.2(b). When Exhibit 8 was offered, the jury had already heard Ligon testify
without objection to substantially the same evidence when he discussed Ponce-Torres’s immigration
status. See Coble, 330 S.W.3d at 282; Garraway v. State, No. 03-14-00595-CR, 2017 Tex. App.
LEXIS 3126, at *15-16 (Tex. App.—Austin Apr. 11, 2017, no pet.) (mem. op., not designated for
publication); Benitez v. State, No. 05-13-00199-CR, 2014 Tex. App. LEXIS 7651, at *16 (Tex.
App.—Dallas July 15, 2014, pet. ref’d) (not designated for publication). Ligon testified that Ponce
Torres was from Landa, Queretaro, in Mexico; that he had no lawful status in the United States; that
his ICE file contained his photograph and fingerprints; that the date of birth he provided fit the
information ICE had; and that he had an immigration detainer placed on him and he went into ICE
custody on May 22, 2014.
We conclude that any error in admitting Exhibit 8 was rendered harmless by the
admission, without objection, of substantially similar testimony from Ligon. We overrule Ponce
Torres’s appellate issue.
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