NEW PORT RICHEY — The accused man took the stand and changed his story.
Yes, he did have sex with the victim. But, he didn't point a gun at her and force her in his car. He didn't rape her and threaten to kill her if she didn't do what he said.
She was the one, Tommy Garcia said, who came up to him, while he was putting air in his tires at a gas station. And she was the one who led him to a secluded area where they agreed to exchange money for oral sex. Then, they started "kissing and stuff," and after it was over, he said, the victim was mad because she wanted more money.
So, why did he lie to a Pasco detective?
"I thought he was going to tell my wife everything at that point," Garcia said on the stand Friday. "I didn't want to go through a divorce. I had and kids everything else."
After hearing his evolving story, a jury of four men and two women found Garcia, 40, guilty of sexual battery and kidnapping for the February 2012 incident, after deliberating for more than two hours.
He's also accused in three other rapes that have yet to go to trial. The victim in this incident testified that Garcia assaulted her, stole her phone and left her in the woods southwest of Utica Drive and Rhodes Road in Hudson. She ran into the road frantic, and was given a rape exam. Deputies showed her a photo pack and she identified Garcia. DNA evidence conclusively matched him as well.
Detectives recorded their first encounter with Garcia, outside of his home where he was watching his three young sons while his wife was at work. He told detectives for an hour that he didn't have anything to do with it. He couldn't have done it, he said, because he was playing basketball with friends.
"It doesn't make sense," he told detectives over and over again.
During cross examination, Assistant State Attorney Eva Vergos brought up the repeated number of lies in Garcia's testimony.
"For over an hour you tell law enforcement you went from your house to play basketball," Vergos said. "That wasn't true?"
"No, ma'am," Garcia said.
"You told law enforcement you had no contact with a girl," Vergos said. "You lied about that."
"Yes, ma'am," Garcia said.
She asked him how many times he thought he lied. In her closing argument, she gave an answer.
"Sixty-six times in that audiotape he said something that was blatantly untrue," she said.
A straight-faced Garcia made a short statement to Circuit Judge William Webb before his sentencing.
"I would just like to say that I never did carry a firearm and I never raped her," he said. "But as far as (my testimony), I wish I could have said more on the stand, but I couldn't speak freely."
Webb declared Garcia a sex offender and sentenced him to two consecutive life terms in prison.