By Will Johnson
ANDERSON COUNTY – An Anderson County jury found 21-year-old Garrett Forester guilty of the felony offense of Continuous Sexual Assault of Children, and sentenced him to 50 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice-Institutional Division.
The jury returned its verdict on May 3 in the 349th District Court, with District Judge Pam Foster Fletcher presiding over the trial. The prosecution was represented by Anderson County Criminal District Attorney Allyson Mitchell and First Assistant Scott Holden. Forester was represented by Palestine-based attorney Colin McFall.
A press release from the Anderson County D.A. stated Forester will serve his sentence day for day and will only become eligible for prison release when he is 71 years old.
In her statement, Mitchell indicated Forester’s arrest and subsequent conviction came about because of a routine traffic stop conducted by Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Trooper D. Wimberly on the night of Oct. 7, 2015.
The law enforcement official testified he stopped Forester’s vehicle near Fairfield because of a defective light.
According to Mitchell’s statement, “The trooper noted open beer cans and after gaining consent from Forester to search the vehicle, he located additional beer cans, a small amount of marijuana and a child’s backpack which was located in the trunk. Forester was asked if he knew the name of the child written in a notebook in the back pack and he denied any knowledge.”
The trooper testified he had recently attended a training seminar on human trafficking and “… determined that there could be more to Forester’s claims. He asked consent from Forester to review Forester’s cell phone and Forester gave him permission,” the press release stated.
The media statement indicated while reviewing the contents of Forester’s cell phone, the trooper discovered two videos which showed a man engaging sexual acts with young children.
“The Trooper asked Forester about the videos and he admitted that he was the person in both videos and that he recorded them. He was adamant, however, that both children were 14 years of age or older and he was 17 years at the time,” Mitchell stated.
After he admitted to his participation in the videos, the D.A. stated Forester agreed to go to the Freestone County Courthouse where he was interviewed by DPS Special Agent C. Frost of the DPS.
The D.A.’s statement reported Forester was read his Miranda rights and asked again about the videos. As Frost questioned Forester, he “… again admitted it was him in both videos and that the assaults happened in Anderson County.”
“Special Agent Frost was able to determine from time stamps that one video was recorded on Sept. 4, 2016 and the other video was recorded Oct. 7, 2016,” Mitchell stated. “Forester agreed that the date stamps were correct making him 19 and 20 years of age in each video.”
As the investigation unfolded, Mitchell stated the case was then turned over to Investigator Ginger Lively with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. Through her diligence, Lively was able to uncover the identities of the two children in the video and determined both were 12-years-old.
“After pleading not guilty at trial, Forester changed his plea to guilty after hearing all the state’s evidence. The jury found him guilty then moved on to the punishment phase,” Mitchell’s press release stated.
The crime of continuous sexual assault of children is considered a first degree felony which carries a punishment range of 25 years to 99 years/life confinement in TDCJ.
During the punishment phase of the trial, the prosecution presented evidence to the jury that both children were mentally challenged.
Forester’s defense was based on a claim he had used K2, a synthetic form of marijuana, and that both sexual assaults “… were simple mistakes.”
In rebuttal to Forester’s claim, the prosecution called Detective Kaylan Griffin to the witness stand.
“Det. Griffin explained to the jury that K2 is a stimulant that drives its users over the edge; users are not peaceful or zoned out as the defendant and his witnesses claimed,” Mitchell’s statement indicated. “She further testified that in her experience with those that have used K2, it has never driven a person to commit sexual assaults against children.”
At the conclusion of all the testimony, the jury handed down a sentence of 50 years in prison to Forester.
“As a community and as a society, our greatest concern should be the welfare and safety of children. Forester is as an adult who preyed on innocent, disabled children,” Mitchell stated. “He kept the videos as trophies of what he did and we believe that he was escalating. With two sexual assaults a year apart, it is fair to say there could have been a third time had Trooper Wimberly not caught him.”
The D.A. also applauded the instincts of Trooper Wimberly as well as the actions of Special Agent Frost and Investigator Lively in the arrest, conviction and sentencing of Forester.
“Had Trooper Wimberly not sensed something was wrong, Forester would not have been held accountable for his actions. Our Legislature created this law to be one of the most server laws on punishment in our State. This case is an example of why this law is needed. By the jury’s sentence, more children here and anywhere else will be safe from Forester,” Mitchell stated.
Forester may also face additional charges from Freestone County for possession of pornographic images of other children and for possession with intent to promote child pornography.
“These charges could mean an additional 140 years in TDCJ and could be stacked on top of the 50 years he received in Anderson County,” the D.A. stated.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.