After little more than an hour of deliberations Thursday, a McHenry County jury found a 56-year-old man guilty on 21 counts of sexually abusing and assaulting two children over a span of about 13 years.
Robert Gould, who lived in Island Lake and Woodstock during the years prosecutors say he committed the crimes, was found guilty of three counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a child younger than 13, Class 2 felonies; eight counts of criminal sexual assault, Class 1 felonies; and 10 counts of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child, Class X felonies.
Gould, whose bond was immediately revoked and taken into custody of the McHenry County jail, faces decades in prison when sentenced on Jan. 27.
His accusers, now 23 and 25 years old, wept in the courtroom surrounded by supporters, as Judge Michael Coppedge read “guilty” on each of the 21 counts.
In closing arguments, prosecutors told jurors that Gould sexually abused and assaulted the two young girls for years beginning in 2001 and that their memories were reality, not false as the defense alleged.
Defense attorney, Dominic Buttitta Jr., said in his closing arguments this was “a case of mental illness and struggles to distinguish nightmares and dreams from reality.”
However, Assistant State’s Attorney Tyler Mikan began his closing arguments repeating what one of the women said on the stand this week during trial.
“ ‘He touched me. I couldn’t say no,’ ” he said. “Theirs are the first words of this trial and should be the last. You heard what he did, ... horrible, unspeakable acts.”
Mikan said they were “innocent and helpless” when he isolated them and said they were playing a game as he sexually abused and assaulted them.
Gould “used opportunities” when the girls were alone to abuse and assault them, Mikan said.
“You heard what those girls went through,” Mikan told the jurors.
Gould, who also testified this week in his own defense, denied abusing or sexually assaulting the girls.
The abuse and sexual assaults became more intense, painful, threatening and physical as they aged, according to trial testimony. Each said there were times they tried to fight him off and they were tied down, one with a comforter, the other with a towel.
They each said the assaults happened too many times to count.
“He is nothing short of guilty,” Mikan said, asking jurors “what motivation, what benefit do these girls get for making this up? They are ... living productive lives away from him. What do they gain by facing the man (in court) that ruined their childhood. If they are making this up, give them an Oscar right now.”
Their recovered memories of the abuse, supported by Shelley Pier, an expert called by the state, also included details of smells, what they were wearing and feeling and what was going on around them, including violent physical abuse at the hands of Gould.
“Memory is a tricky thing,” Mikan said. “No one has a perfect memory. They were honest with you about what they remember and what they couldn’t.”
The women reported the abuse in 2016 when they were in their mid to late teenage years, after moving to Canada when, prosecutors said, they felt safe enough to speak out.
One of the women testified that prior to telling a child protective services counselor in Canada, then a Canadian police officer, then to a prosecutors, then detailing the abuse in court this week, she had never spoken of the details of the abuse.
Each testified that they had not had a lot of therapy over the years and they also never spoke about the abuse to each other, Assistant State’s Attorney Sharyl Eisenstein said.
Prosecutors also took aim at testimony by Christopher Barden, the defense’s expert on memory, who said that the women’s allegations are false and based on “flashbacks” and called recovered memory “junk science.”
However, Mikan said, Barden also said sometimes memory can be blurred in times of trauma. He then used Barden’s own example of a man holding up someone with a gun. The victim will likely recall there was a gun but not be able to describe who was holding it, the prosecutor said.
During the trial, Buttitta sought to push back on the state’s case by saying the allegations were the product of poorly trained psychotherapists piecing together flashbacks and erroneously telling the women their flashbacks were real memories of being sexually abused and assaulted.
In closing arguments, he told jurors that the state “failed” in presenting any mental health diagnosis, historic sexual assault medical exams or therapy records to prove the allegations.
In asking the jury to acquit Gould, Buttitta quoted statements the women had made about their memories of the abuse.
“‘I think, I believe, I’m pretty sure, I blocked a lot of this out, I dissociated,’” Buttitta said.
“The theory that horrible memories are blocked or suppressed or repressed or compartmentalized is junk science that has been debunked,” Buttitta said.
Referring to Barden’s testimony, Buttitta said, “Flashbacks are not memories, but often inaccurate as in veterans who report they have died in their flashbacks. ... Ladies and gentlemen, that is exactly what the two accusers base their memories on, flashbacks. What does basing your memories on flashbacks equal? Reasonable doubt.”