A Live Oak County man is awaiting transportation to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison where he is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.
James Lewis Coquat, 64, of Oakville, was convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a child and sentenced in August to 50 years in prison. The trial was delayed more than a year because of COVID-19, and earlier this summer there were not enough potential jurors reporting during one jury summons, postponing the trial further.
After the jury found Coquat guilty, he opted to have a judge sentence him. A minimum sentence following the conviction would have been 25 years, which his defense attorneys asked for, but which was denied. Presiding Judge Patrick Flanigan sentenced Coquat to 50 years in prison.
“We supported anything over 36 years, which would mean he would be at least 100 years old before getting out of prison,” said Assistant District Attorney Tiffany McWilliams. “The judge’s sentencing more than satisfies the requirement of keeping the community safe.”
McWilliams noted that Coquat’s mother is in her mid 80s and his grandmother lived into her 90s, so longevity runs in the family.
“We didn’t want a situation in which he could serve 25 years, get out of prison and possibly endanger children,” McWilliams said.
The trial was based on the outcry of a victim in 2016, and the continuous sexual abuse took place over a number of years based on trial testimony. McWilliams said a total of seven victims came forward, and that Coquat is suspected of having sexually abused children for decades.
He moved to Oakville from the Cotulla area in 2001.
McWilliams said she appreciates the jurors’ service.
“I am really grateful for the jurors who came out,” she said. “We had tried to pick a jury earlier in the year but we didn’t have enough people respond to be able to select a jury. I am incredibly thankful for those in the community who came out so that we were able to have the trial. (Coquat) was out on bond and could possibly have continued to victimize other children.
“I encourage people in the community to respond to the jury summons whenever they get them so we can convict people if they are guilty of crimes.”
McWilliams also praised the victims for stepping forward so that justice could prevail.
“I’m very proud of the victims for speaking out so that this crime would not go unpunished,” she said. “The youngest woman spoke out, and that gave the others the courage to also speak out. This abuse had gone on for decade after decade.”
Deputy Bill Ainsworth, who helps organize transport of prisoners, said Coquat’s transfer to the prison system has been delayed because of COVID-19, but he is hopeful that Coquat may be transferred to either the Garza West facility in Beeville or to the state prison in Huntsville later this month.