AZTEC — While proclaiming his innocence, Phillip Gibbs was sentenced Monday to 16 years in prison for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old relative.

District Judge John Dean sentenced Gibbs, 59, to 15 years in prison for the sexual-assault conviction and enhanced the sentence by one year because Gibbs had a prior felony conviction. It was the longest sentence he could have received.

Gibbs was facing 4 to 16 years in prison because he was convicted of a sex crime against a child on March 6. His day-long trial ended when jurors deliberated for 12 minutes and convicted him of a second-degree felony.

"I'm innocent of the charges. I wouldn't do anything to hurt my family." Gibbs said. "God knows the truth. He was there. I feel sorry for (the victim.) I still love her, too."

Gibbs was staying with family members in Farmington in September 2011 when he assaulted a 12-year-old girl. The girl woke up in the middle of the night and Gibbs was on top of her committing sexual assault.

She reported the crime to her parents and police the next morning.

Jurors heard from the victim and Gibbs. They also considered two pieces of DNA evidence that linked Gibbs to the crime.

"We don't hate Phillip. We hate what he did," said the girl's father, who is a Farmington pastor, during Monday's sentencing hearing. "We have to learn to love the person and hate the sin."

Her father said the assault plagues her to this day.

"My daughter has gone through a lot since this happened.


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She doesn't like to sleep in her room," he said. "She has problems talking to people. Sometimes she shuts down, even with counselors. She wants us to move but we can't afford that."

Deputy District Attorney Ron Brambl called Gibbs' crime "evil" and said there was no reason not to hand down the longest possible sentence.

"I don't think there's any reason whatsoever to suspend any part of the sentence in this case," he said. "In a lot of these situations it ruins the child's life. Their entire life."

Mark Curnutt, Gibbs' attorney, asked Dean for a four-year sentence. He said Gibbs had no history of sex crimes.

"He doesn't have a history of this. There's nothing to consider that he's some type of outstanding predator. There is no pattern of behavior," he said.

Dean said Gibbs had the right to maintain innocence before he gave him the maximum prison sentence.

"I too sat through the trial, listened to the witnesses and formed my own opinions about what had gone on," Dean said. "He has every right to maintain his innocence as long as he wants to. That's his business."

Ryan Boetel may be reached at rboetel@daily-times.com; 564-4644. Follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/rboetel.