An Orleans Parish jury convicted a 31-year-old man on two counts of aggravated rape late Wednesday, agreeing with prosecutors that Issa Lamizana Jr. sexually assaulted two preteen children in separate incidents in 2011.
The victims, one boy and one girl, are siblings.
Lamizana faces a mandatory life prison term. Criminal District Court Judge Darryl Derbigny scheduled sentencing for Feb. 19.
The jury deliberated for about five hours before rendering the guilty verdict.
A grand jury indicted Lamizana in December 2012.
Assistant District Attorney Ashley Spears told the jury that the girl reported being assaulted “more than once” by Lamizana. The girl told her mother that Lamizana had threatened to kill her and the mother if she revealed the rape.
Spears picked up Lamizana’s black handgun from the prosecution table, waving it to the jury as evidence of the girl’s story.
The boy came forward to his mother after his sister made her accusation, saying he too had been raped a few months earlier in 2011.
The New Orleans Advocate does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Over a weeklong trial, both victims and Lamizana took the witness stand, with Lamizana on Wednesday denying either rape.
Leon Roche II, one of Lamizana’s public defenders, argued that the two victims were coerced into their stories by an abusive mother and that the children were covering for her.
“Children will lie to protect their abuser,” Roche told the jury. “We live in a society now where all it takes is for a child to say you touched him, and you’ll have your freedom taken away from you, your liberty taken away.”
“There’s no physical evidence,” Roche said, likening the case against Lamizana to the Salem witch hunts.
He argued that the girl described the rape only after repeated, angry prompting.
“She adopts her mom’s story: ‘Issa touched me,’ ” Roche said.
Spears and fellow prosecutor Iain Dover acknowledged a lack of DNA evidence but said that was a result of both victims painfully keeping what had happened secret for months.
The boy had begun acting up, and he “finally breaks down and releases the weight he’s been holding — the guilt that he couldn’t protect his sister and the fact Issa ... raped him,” Spears argued. Lamizana “took their innocence from them,” he said.
Lamizana has been in jail since his arrest in lieu of $2 million bail.
Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.