State seeks to civilly commit former Boy Scout leader convicted of child sexual assault

 

EDINBURG — The state of Texas is asking a judge to civilly commit a former Boy Scout leader who was convicted of sexual assault of a child and possession of child pornography in 2007 after his prison term ends next year.

Genaro Vela, now 72, has nearly finished serving a 14-year prison term on state convictions for sexual assault of a child, attempted aggravated sexual assault of a child, indecency with a child by contact, and a federal conviction for possession of child pornography.

Newspaper archives indicate Vela admitted to sexually assaulting one of his former scouts and touching several others inappropriately.

Vela, who was 59 at the time of his convictions, had led Mission-based Boy Scout Troop 83 for decades, according to newspaper archives.

He is scheduled for release on Sept. 16, 2020.

However, the state’s Special Prosecution Unit, a civil division, has filed a petition seeking an order of involuntary civil commitment because it believes that Vela is a “sexually violent predator,” as defined by a section of the Health and Safety Code.

“Specifically, Respondent is a repeat sexually violent offender who suffers from a behavioral abnormality that makes him likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence,” the petition read.

The state passed legislation in 1999 that allows for the civil commitment of someone deemed a “sexually violent predator.”

Proceedings against Vela were initiated in May.

His new attorney, O. Rene Flores, appeared in court Monday morning on his behalf.

There were no new details offered Monday as to why the state seeks to involuntarily commit Vela, other than what’s in the petition.

The state claims Vela suffers from a behavioral abnormality “that makes him likely to engage in a predatory act of sexual violence.”

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice contracted with an expert who performed a clinical assessment of Vela, according to the petition.

The legislation from 1999 defines behavioral abnormality as “a congenital or acquired condition that, by affecting a person’s emotional or volitional capacity, predisposes the person to commit a sexually violent offense, to the extent that the person becomes a menace to the health and safety of another person.”

In Vela’s original answer in June, through his former attorney, Shawn Horrocks, he denies the allegations and calls the law unconstitutional as applied to Vela.

A trial, which is estimated to last three to four days, is scheduled for late February.

mreagan@themonitor.com