A New Iberia man is free from jail after almost two years of being held on a charge of molesting his stepchild.
An Iberia Parish jury voted 11-1 in favor of acquitting Marvin Paul, 30, of one count of molestation of a juvenile under 13.
Paul has consistently claimed his innocence of the charge ever since a bill of information was handed down in August 2018 for his arrest..
Public defender Hazel Chavis, who represented Paul, said that the girl’s mother had moved out of state, taking the couple’s two children and third unborn child, as soon as Paul was arrested.
“There was no DNA, no evidence, just the word of the mom,” Chavis said. “As soon as she made the allegation and he went to jail, she took the kids and moved to Georgia.”
According to Chavis, the mother was brought in to testify during the trial.
“The District Attorney’s Office sent her a bus ticket,” Chavis said. “And the jury said they didn’t believe her. Her story changed throughout the trial. So Marvin Paul is just a guy, an innocent person sitting in jail for two years for no reason.”
She also said that the mother’s lack of interest in the outcome of the case played a part in the jury’s decision.
“She came to court to testify and they didn’t see her again,” Chavis said. “She did not stay for the verdict. What kind of mother does not stay to see how a trial like this ends up?”
Chavis said the assistant district attorney handling the case offered Paul a plea agreement — 40 years if he pleaded guilty.
“He (Chavis) told me he was not going to take a plea because he didn’t do anything,” Chavis said.
She said the next step for Paul is to try to rebuild his life.
“For now, he will be trying to get back to work, try to get his job back,” Chavis said. “I’ve told him how to have the arrest expunged from his record and advised him of his custody rights. He has three children with his accuser, aged 3, 2 and 1.”
For now, Chavis said Paul is moving beyond the last two years and trying to put it behind him.
“It’s a horrible thing to have to happen, but I am glad that justice was served in the end,” she said. “Thankfully everything worked out.”