GAINESVILLE – A jury acquitted an Alachua man on Wednesday, Dec. 12, on charges of child molestation. Lotus Mango Blanchard, was arrested by Alachua police on Aug. 19, 2011, and charged with two counts of lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age according to an Alachua Police Department (APD) report.

The first charge was for lewd or lascivious battery. The second charge was lewd or lascivious molestation. Both charges are second degree felonies.

The first of the two charges never made it to the jury after the judge in the case determined the Office of the State Attorney didn’t have enough evidence to bring it to trial. Blanchard, who was 30 years old at the time of his arrest, was found not-guilty by a jury of six, which rendered its verdict in the case last week after deliberating for just 25 minutes.

Attorney Nick Zissimopulos, who defended Blanchard, said, “We worked hundreds of hours for [Blanchard], and the system worked.”

He called the verdict a “product of hard work” and the result of “a jury who gave real meaning to the presumption of innocence and burden of proof [placed on the state].”

Blanchard was released from jail on a $50,000 bond shortly after his arrest in August 2011. Now 32 years old, he is not only free from the threat of jail, but from the charges that loomed overhead until last week. If he had been convicted, Blanchard could have faced up to 15 years in prison for each of the charges.

“For people who read the stories, it’s important to understand that an allegation is nothing more than words that have been spoken. It’s not proof,” said Zissimopulos.

“I always believed in my client,” he said, adding, “Now Lotus [Blanchard] can begin rebuilding his life.”

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