AUSTIN - A church pastor was sentenced to 26 years in prison Friday for severely beating a Bible studies student with a tree branch after the child misbehaved during a summer class.
The pastor's twin brother received a 14-year sentence for his role in the beating.
"Justice was served," prosecutor Beth Payan said.
Pastor Joshua Thompson, who ministered to the Spanish-speaking congregation at the fundamentalist Capitol City Baptist Church, was ordered to serve 26 years for injury to a child and 20 years for aggravated assault of Louie Guerrero.
His twin brother, Caleb, 23, was sentenced to 14-year sentences on the same convictions.
All of the sentences will run concurrently. Both men will be eligible for parole after they serve half their sentences.
The Thompsons had asked for probation. They avoided life in prison.
Defense attorneys said they would appeal the convictions.
Carlos Garcia, one of Caleb Thompson's attorneys, said the sentences did not surprise him. He worried about the Thompsons' safety in prison, fearing they will be targeted by other inmates because of their religious background and the nature of the crime.
"You never know what a jury is going to do," Garcia said. "It's a volatile subject matter. Was it justice? Only time will tell."
Prosecutors had said the brothers beat Guerrero, now 12, so badly on July 3, 2002, that he spent a week in intensive care under the threat of kidney failure and needed a blood transfusion.
The jury convicted the brothers Wednesday and took about seven hours over two days to decide the sentences.
The victim's mother, Norma Arellano, and stepfather, Genevevo Arellano, held hands while the sentences were announced. The brothers showed no emotion as they were immediately sent to prison.
The brothers' father, Hank Thompson, leads the church and dozens of members of the congregation sat in stunned silence in the courtroom, while Joshua Thompson's wife, Maressa, sat in the front row behind the defendants and cried.
Relatives of the victim and defendants all left the courtroom without comment after the sentences were announced.
Guerrero and a doctor who treated him said he was hit at least 100 times. During the trial, jurors saw graphic photos of the boy's back with red and purple bruises and blood spots from scrapes or puncture wounds.
The brothers admitted the beating but disputed the blow count and its intensity. Joshua Thompson said Guerrero's parents had given him permission to punish the boy and that he didn't intend to inflict serious injuries. Guerrero's parents deny telling him he could hit their child.
Neither man had a criminal record before their conviction and both acknowledged during trial that what they did was wrong.
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