Father not guilty of most serious charge in child tattoo trial

FRESNO, Calif.

The judge declared a mistrial in the tattoo trial because of a hung jury on lesser charges. But the jury reached a "not guilty" verdict on the most serious charge against Enrique Gonzalez, Jr., and Travis Gorman, aggravated mayhem.

That means a mistrial on the other counts, but life in prison is no longer on the table for the boy's father and his friend.

Gorman's head fell forward. Gonzalez just nodded.

The former Bulldog gang members admitted to tattooing this dog paw on Gonzalez's 7-year-old son. But jurors found them not guilty of aggravated mayhem, a charge that could've sent them to jail for life.

"We reached a unanimous conclusion that he was not forcibly held down against his will," said the jury foreperson, who wanted to be identified only by his first name, Ryan.

Jurors may have agreed the boy made up his story about his dad forcing him to get the tattoo. But they disagreed on who else was not telling the whole truth, and deadlocked on nearly all the charges.

"We don't think anybody was entirely accurate, including the boy," Ryan said.

Before trial, Gorman and Gonzalez offered to plead guilty to lesser crimes and go to prison for several years. But even after one judge dismissed the aggravated mayhem charges, the District Attorney's office pushed forward.

"The only reason aggravated mayhem was charged was so that some prosecutors could get out there and appear to be tough on gangs," said the father's defense attorney, Doug Foster. "There's absolutely nothing wrong with cracking down on gangs. I'm not suggesting that shouldn't happen, but pick your cases."

At the home where Gorman tattooed the boy in April 2009, his family members are hoping he can come home soon after more than a year in jail. His father is dying in the hospital and his 2-year-old daughter needs a dad, even one who's made bad mistakes.

"[I'm] really glad that he's not going to serve life," said his brother, Kyle Gorman. "He doesn't deserve life for that."

Gorman and Gonzalez are due back in court next week. They could still face two felony charges, but they're hoping prosecutors will be willing to cut deals.

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