To a then-7-year-old boy who just hours before had to leave his foster home in the Bronx, the split-level ranch in Ridge with its classic cars in the driveway was a wonder.
“I was not used to a big house like that,” said the former foster child, now 29 and living in Mastic Beach. “The house was huge, enormous.”
It had a pool and a shed with video games and electricity, known as the game room, he testified Tuesday in Riverhead. It also had Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu, 60, who later became both his adoptive father and, the witness said, his sexual abuser.
Gonzales-Mugaburu is on trial before Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn, charged with sexually abusing eight boys, some of whom he later adopted, and a dog. The most serious charge, predatory sexual assault against a child, carries a maximum sentence of 25 years to life.
When the Mastic Beach man described arriving in 1996 at the house as a boy, he said he thought, “That’s it. I’m home.”
Newsday does not name people who say they are victims of sex crimes.
During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Laurie Moroff, the man said he soon learned the rules of the house which would become home to dozens of foster children — were strict. He had to ask to go to the bathroom, to take a shower, to play with toys. “I needed to ask for everything,” he said.
He made friends at Ridge Elementary School, but they could never visit him and he could never visit them. Seconds at meals were not allowed and snacks were rare.
“I was hungry almost all the time,” he said. Things like being able to sit at the kitchen table for meals or on the couch to watch television, or go in the pool or beyond the driveway were privileges to be earned, he said.
While still in elementary school, the man said Gonzales-Mugaburu showed him gay porn videos and told him he was sexually attracted to him. Gonzales-Mugaburu began to fondle him and it progressed to sex acts, the man said.
“It was a daily routine,” he testified. “Before school, after school — whenever he wanted.”
After Moroff had the man describe some of the sexual activity, he dry-heaved into his hand and Kahn ended testimony for the day.
Earlier, two Manhattan brothers, now 12 and 14, testified about their time in the house in the last six months of 2015. During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Christina Pinnola, the younger boy identified Gonzales-Mugaburu’s two dogs, Hennessy and Rémy — apparently named after cognac brands — in a photograph.
Although these boys said Gonzales-Mugaburu did not molest them, they both said he made crude, sexual jokes. And the older boy said he once went to get his asthma pump from Gonzales-Mugaburu’s bedroom and found him performing a sex act on one of the dogs.
During cross-examination, Hauppauge defense attorney Donald Mates Jr. asked the younger boy about disciplinary problems he’s had and the older boy about his psychiatric history, which includes several hospitalizations.
Mates argued in his opening statement that the boys’ stories are not credible and his client sexually abused no one.