Coast Guard officer gets life without parole for rape of child in Ascension Parish; molestation began when child was 6 _lowres

Robert Guzman

A U.S. Coast Guard officer who had recently worked in procurement for a special anti-terrorism unit in New Orleans was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty Monday to raping a young girl over a five-year period.

Chief Petty Officer Robert Guzman, 43, of Gonzales, admitted as part of the plea to having sex with the girl while she was between the ages of 11 and 16 in Ascension Parish, the plea agreement says.

Ascension Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested Guzman on Dec. 31 after the girl went to authorities about continued sexual abuse that began with molestation when she was 6 years old and occurred in Florida and Texas, in addition to Ascension Parish, arrest reports show.

Those arrest reports also say Guzman admitted to the years of sexual abuse in a recorded statement with sheriff’s deputies.

Criminal court records detailing Guzman’s service history show he joined the Coast Guard in August 1991 and that he has been based in the New Orleans-area 8th District since Aug. 1, 2010.

Among several Coast Guard postings during his career, Guzman served in Miami in the mid- to late 2000s, an arrest report says.

Since April 2013, Guzman had worked as a storekeeper — an administrative job related to equipment procurement — for a maritime safety and security team based out of New Orleans, said Lt. John FitzGerald, Coast Guard 8th District spokesman. The teams are special quick response anti-terrorism units created by Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to protect shipping and critical infrastructure.

FitzGerald said that after the Coast Guard received the charges against Guzman, he was suspended without pay and administratively reassigned from the maritime team to the 8th District headquarters to await the results of the trial.

“Obviously, the Coast Guard does not condone anything of this nature, and our condolences go to the victim of this terrible tragedy,” FitzGerald said.

Guzman had been in Ascension Parish Prison in lieu of bail of $1.55 million since his arrest last year.

Prosecutors charged Guzman in March with four counts of aggravated rape and one count of molestation of a juvenile.

Under the plea agreement entered Monday at the Ascension Parish Courthouse in Gonzales, prosecutors agreed to drop all charges but the one aggravated rape count to which Guzman pleaded guilty, court minutes show.

Guzman had been set for trial Tuesday, but he entered the plea Monday after 23rd Judicial District Judge Thomas Kliebert Jr. rejected defense motions to suppress evidence and allowed prosecutors to present evidence of other crimes at trial, court minutes show.

Kliebert handed down the life sentence Monday without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence.

“Guzman’s actions were unconscionable, and no amount of years can undo the damage that has been done,” said Assistant District Attorney Shawn Bush, who prosecuted the case.

“I pray that this child can find peace in her life and can somehow learn to trust again. ”

The 23rd Judicial District encompasses Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes.

Follow David J. Mitchell on Twitter, @NewsieDave.