Ridge foster dad found not guilty of sex abuse charges

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CENTRAL ISLIP -

A Ridge foster father accused of sexually abusing boys placed in his care has been found not guilty on all 17 counts against him.

As News 12 Long Island reported, the jury struggled to reach a verdict after seven days of deliberations.

Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, was accused of sexually molesting six foster sons and endangering the welfare of two others between 1996 and 2016. They were all special-needs children. The 17-count indictment against Gonzales-Mugaburu also charged that he was involved in sexual misconduct with the family dog.

In court during the trial, one victim testified that Gonzales-Mugaburu would not feed him, forcing him to scavenge food out of trash cans. Charges against Gonzales-Mugaburu included criminal sex act in the second degree, predatory sexual assault against a child and endangering the welfare of a child.

"It is heartbreaking, and I can imagine when the children hear the verdict, they too will be heartbroken," said Assistant District Attorney Dari Schwartz.

News 12 spoke to jurors in the case who said the deliberations were heart-wrenching.

"I did what I was told as a juror. Basically, that's what I am here for. All feelings aside, that's what you have to do," said one juror.

She went on to say that there was a lack of information and not enough to work with.

Attorney Donald Mates Jr., spoke on his client's behalf after the verdict. Gonzales-Mugaburu was "very happy and very emotional" with the outcome, he said, adding that "we just want to thank the jury and take Cesar home."

Gonzales-Mugaburu was promptly released from custody. His foster sons, some of whom he adopted, are now all staying in different homes.

In the wake of the verdict, the Crime Victims Center and Parents for Megan's Law are calling for a special advocate and educational program for foster children to better protect them.

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