A former Astoria High School wrestling coach and Coast Guard officer was found guilty Wednesday of multiple sex crimes in 2005.
Gary Medina inappropriately touched a 17-year-old girl who was living in his home and also had sex with her friend — a 15-year-old girl. Circuit Court Judge Dawn McIntosh delivered the verdict following a two-day, nonjury trial.
Medina was convicted of first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, which carries a minimum sentence of more than eight years in prison, as well as first-degree sexual abuse — a more than six-year minimum. He also was convicted of third-degree rape for the encounter with the 15-year-old. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for February.
“I have no doubt that you lived in fear for many years of this coming,” McIntosh told Medina. “I absolutely believe both of these young women.”
Cherish Nunnally, who testified during the trial, had moved in as a foster child in Medina’s home when she was 17. To treat an ear infection and migraine one night in 2005, she was given medication and climbed into Medina’s bed in between him and his wife, who has since died.
Medina rolled over in the middle of the night, placed one hand down her underwear and another on her chest, groping her. Nunnally, who is also Medina’s cousin, decided not to report the incident out of fear of her and her younger relative’s living arrangements, she said.
Earlier that year, Medina, who had turned 30 years old, had sex with Nunnally’s 15-year-old friend. Medina maintained an off-and-on relationship with the second victim for another 10 years. During the relationship, the victim gave birth to two children before the couple separated for the final time.
The victim reported the incident to police in February. Astoria police then interviewed her, her sister and a friend who confirmed her story. With a detective present, the victim made a recorded phone call to Medina in an attempt to force him to admit to the crime on the record.
“I’ve already told you I’m sorry for everything I’ve done,” Medina said during the call. When she asked him what he had done wrong specifically, he refused to specify and berated her in an expletive-laden rant.
“I’m tired of being tossed around and blown around for everybody’s problems,” Medina said. “Your life has been terrible since even before you met me. The Medinas saved you.”
McIntosh referenced the call when explaining her verdict.
“There is no question who had the power and control in that relationship,” the judge said.
A little more than a week after the call, Astoria police and a Coast Guard investigator interviewed Medina for more than two hours at Beaverton High School, where he worked at the time. Medina had continued to have a relationship with the victim when he was an officer and she was an unranked enlistee, a violation of military code.
Already indicted by a grand jury on a third-degree rape charge for the relationship, he was arrested and taken back to Astoria immediately after the interview.
The victim’s report came days after Medina told her he had purchased a home with his fiancee. Christine Mascal, Medina’s Portland-based attorney, called a number of witnesses who testified that the victim was untruthful, still in love with her client and worried that he would limit her access to her children.
The victim did admit that she had grown weary of the dynamic between her and Medina and even that he was a good father to the children.
“I’ve expressed concerns with Gary for a long time that he was going to take my kids away from me,” she said. “I was tired of being under his control. He had controlled my entire life since I was 15.”
Mascal also pointed to the fact that the victim could not recall the date when she and Medina had sex and also named the wrong infant who was sleeping in the room during the encounter.
“Her money was running dry. Her jealousy was running high,” Mascal said. “She’s always had this in the back of her mind, and now she’s using it. And she’s using it in a despicable way.”
Deputy District Attorney Dawn Buzzard, meanwhile, argued that whether the victim still held feelings for Medina was irrelevant as to whether they had sex when she was underage.
“Those two things can exist together,” Buzzard said.
McIntosh said that while the victim may have employed the charge strategically, it did not alter the facts.
“I think she absolutely has been holding this over your head. There were a lot of people who suspected, who should have done something and didn’t. And you took advantage of that,” McIntosh said. “This is not a custody battle ongoing. It just wasn’t.”
Nunnally brought the two other charges forward after Medina’s first arrest.
Witnesses, some of whom testified that they were made aware of the incident prior to the charges being pressed, questioned Nunnally’s truthfulness as well. Nunnally’s ex-fiance testified during the trial that she had told him about the incident in 2006, though he also questioned her honesty.
Mascal referenced a message from late 2016 in which Nunnally, who to that point had maintained a relationship with the Medina family, expressed anger for not being invited to a Thanksgiving dinner and said she did not want to associate herself with them anymore.
“She’s on the outs with her family and wants to support her friend,” Mascal said.
Lawyers also debated the significance of Nunnally’s repeated statements that Medina, characterized as a heavy drinker at the time, likely didn’t know what he was doing during the incident. McIntosh found it irrelevant.
“I hope and pray it was a one-time incident and that you didn’t remember it,” McIntosh said.
Buzzard praised both victims during her closing arguments.
“It’s never easy for people to come forward about sex abuse, but they’re both brave women,” Buzzard said.
Nunnally, who testified for about four hours, expressed her relief with the verdict. The Daily Astorian does not typically identify victims of sexual abuse, but Nunnally agreed to have her name disclosed.
“All I know is that he’s done hurting people. He’s done manipulating people. He’s just done,” Nunnally said in a video shared with the newspaper and posted on Facebook. “At the end of the day, I still pray for that man. I still hope his soul can change. I hope that one day he can see how he’s affected people and what he’s done and how many lives he has ruined.”