A Santa Fe artist accused of raping a friend’s 10-year-old daughter pleaded no contest to reduced charges, including child abuse, and was sentenced to five years of probation as part of a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s Office.
Painter and sculptor Michael Gurule, 62, maintained his innocence at his sentencing hearing Monday, saying he only agreed to the deal to spare himself and the child from a jury trial.
“I never signed up for this,” Gurule said.
He told the court he never intended to be the child’s “nanny” but wanted to help her mother, who asked him to watch the girl at their home.
“I’m horrified as well that she’s claiming this,” he said.
Gurule had been charged with first-degree criminal sexual penetration of a child, third-degree criminal sexual contact with a minor, child abuse, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and enticement of a child in 2018.
He was a family friend and often watched the girl while her single mother worked, a police report states.
The girl’s mother told investigators she started noticing a change in her daughter’s behavior and that her typically good grades began slipping.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, when the woman asked her daughter what was wrong, the girl said Gurule had been touching her inappropriately.
The child drew images of Gurule sexually assaulting her and included dialogue indicating he refused to stop despite her pleas, reports state. Her mother told police her daughter wrote: “He says don’t tell anyone or else.”
When asked by state district Judge Jason Lidyard why he’d agreed to plead no contest to child abuse, two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and enticement of a child if he wasn’t guilty of those crimes, Gurule said he had lost business and was unable to teach his spin classes since the allegations, and he wanted to end the ordeal.
The terms of his agreement with prosecutors guaranteed Gurule a sentence of seven years minus one day, all suspended in favor of five years of probation. He’ll also have to register as a sex offender for 10 years.
The only discretion the deal allowed Lidyard at sentencing was whether to grant Gurule’s request for a conditional discharge, meaning his record would not reflect a felony conviction if he successfully completed probation.
The child abuse count is a third-degree felony. The counts of contributing to the delinquency of a child are fourth-degree felonies, and the enticement charge is a misdemeanor.
Gurule’s attorney, Dan Marlowe, argued the case was flawed.
The child’s mother never turned over requested records from the girl’s mental health care provider, he said, and the state never provided a detailed statement of the girl’s allegations.
When the judge asked Marlowe why he agreed to the deal if there were so many issues, the attorney said ending the case with a plea before the “trauma” of a trial was the right thing for everyone.
Prosecutor Haley Murphy argued against Gurule receiving a conditional discharge, saying the conviction on his record would ensure he would be marked as a felon and suffer the loss of privileges such as voting and firearm ownership, like other felons.
She noted the conviction also could lead to enhanced sentencing if Gurule committed any crimes in the future.
“As you are aware,” Murphy said to the judge, “this plea is a pretty big deviation from the initial charges, to put it mildly.
“Justice can sometimes look a little different than where the state would like it to go,” Murphy added.
She said the state agreed to the plea deal after multiple discussions with the girl and her mother about how to protect the child’s mental health.
The girl and her mother both spoke during the video hearing, asking Lidyard not to grant Gurule a conditional discharge.
The girl, now 13, referred to the day Gurule attacked her as “the day I died,” and said the following three years were a blur as she struggled to block from her mind what he’d done to her.
“My body was frozen when this happened,” she said, adding she’d been worried and scared and didn’t know what to do.
“I experienced things no one should have to experience,” she said. “… I don’t think I’ll ever be the same person as I was before this.”
Lidyard denied Gurule’s request for a conditional discharge, telling him the crimes he’d pleaded to involved reckless and dangerous acts that resulted in harm to a child, “and those are the type of acts for which this court cannot enter a conditional discharge.”