Sevierville, Sevier County (WVLT) - A Sevier County judge accepted a plea deal for a former Dixie Stampede employee originally charged with molesting four child performers in 2004.
As part of the plea deal, illegal immigrant Armando Gonzalez is sentenced to nine years in prison, but may only serve three.
It certainly has taken a long time to get some justice in this case.
But keep in mind, Armando Gonzalez was on the run for a year and a half before he was finally apprehended last year in North Carolina, and Wednesday is a long awaited day for the victims in this case.
Armando Gonzalez pleaded guilty to molesting child actors at Dixie Stampede in November 2004.
He was sentenced to nine years and parents of the victims couldn't be happier that justice has finally come.
"It's been a big relief off of our chest. We've been living a nightmare for a couple years now. I just feel freedom,” says Frank Gordon, father of one of the victims.
Prosecutors told the court the former crew member worked in a wagon during a Christmas show and took advantage of the children below the ages of 13 while the lights were down.
"He would be at the back of the wagon helping the children onto the back and as they sat there he would touch them or as he's getting them on or off he would touch them. Then the lights would come on and they would be in the arena,” says Chief Assistant District Attorney Steve Hawkins.
Gonzalez pleaded guilty to twelve counts of attempted aggravated sexual battery in a best interest plea. For the parents, they too found it in their best interest not to go to trial.
"It's terrible. It's the things that we went through as a family, the nightmares that my son suffered through all this. The medications that he was on,” says Barbara Gordon.
"I want to be able to start healing as a family now and not have to worry about her testifying. I think she's been through enough,” says Kerry Manners.
As Gonzalez heads to state prison to serve his time, the families of the victims plan to use that time to seek closure.
"There's a big burden lifted off of our chest right now. We can start living our regular family life again,” Gordon says.
Gonzalez must now register as a sex offender and faces deportation once his sentence is complete.
Now that the criminal phase is over, the civil is expected to begin. There are currently four suits against Gonzalez and Dixie Stampede seeking upwards of $17 million each.
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