Former Boca Juniors and River Plate footballer Jonathan Fabbro has been sentenced to 14 years in jail after being found guilty of the aggravated sexual abuse of his niece.
Fabbro, born in Argentina and a naturalised Paraguayan, was found guilty of at least five counts of "severely outrageous sexual abuse” (codified as sexual abuse with anal, vaginal or oral penetration) against his niece and goddaughter between 2015 and 2017.
A court ruling said the sentence was aggravated because the girl, today aged 13, was in his care at the time.
Fabbro, 37, was not in court to hear the verdict, instead remaining in jail at the Marcos Paz prison, some 50 kilometres from Buenos Aires.
He has consistently denied the charges at all times, though he has admitted guilt regarding a second accusation involving another minor at his home in Asunción, Paraguay, according to Noticias Argentinas.
The sentence, issued by Oral Criminal Court (TOC) 12 judges Luis Oscar Márquez, Darío Martín Medina and Claudia Beatriz Moscat, fell short of the request included in the criminal complaint.
Outside the court, family members of the victim were for the most part satisfied.
"Justice was done," said the girl's mother after learning the ruling, although she added that “there is no joy, only tranquility."
“My daughter is very brave because she spoke up. I only want to go home and hug her. Everything is very painful.”
On the other hand, Agustín – the brother of the victim and the individual who reported the case after discovering chat messages between Fabbro and the victim – said the sentence seemed “unjust” because the victim suffer for “a lifetime.”
"Justice was done for my sister, but it is not a happy time for anyone," he said, adding that Fabbro was his idol before he discovered evidence of the abuse.
From the pitch to the dock
The road to court for Fabbro has been a long one. A Paraguayan national, Fabbro previously played as an attacking midfielder for local giants Boca Juniors and River Plate.
Named Paraguay’s Footballer of the Year in 2012, he had a nomadic career, appearing for Once Caldas (Colombia), Guaraní, Cerro Porteño (both Paraguay), Chiapas (Mexico) and a host of other clubs.
The 37-year-old was extradited in May 2018 after having been arrested on December 20, 2017 in the Mexican state of Puebla, at the request of the Argentine authorities. He had been playing for local team Lobos BUAP de México at the time of being detained.
Nineteen days after his arrival in Argentina, Fabbro was remanded in custody under pre-trial detention.
There was drama inside and outside the court on Wednesday. Fabbro is in a relationship with high-profile Paraguayan model Larissa Riquelme, who has defended her partner consistently and was in court to hear the ruling and potential sentence.
Shocked by the ruling she appeared to faint and was later taken away to hospital by ambulance.
"I am convinced of his innocence," Larissa Riquelme said earlier this week, adding that she was not alleging the child had lied but that they were “missing the truth.”
The model said that "what the prosecution is asking for and the complaint is an exaggeration, because there is not enough evidence."
"I am calm, I have always been at his side since day one. Since the subject of the complaint occurred we are much more united as a couple and as a family. There are many victims behind this, it is very unfortunate," said Riquelme