Fresno Music Teacher Gabriel Argote Sentenced for Child Sex Abuse

66-year-old Gabriel Argote, long-time music teacher at Mendota High School and Legends Music Sound Stage, was recently sentenced to eighteen years in state prison. Residents may be wondering “what’s next?”

As the attorneys helping one of the young victims of Gabriel Argote, we are thrilled to hear this news of the sentencing. Over time we look forward to being part of the team that turns her into a survivor.

Even back in February 2016, just after the Valentine’s Day sexual abuse reported by one 11-year old girl, her parents sensed that there were other victims. At that time, Argote was in court pleading not guilty to one felony count. Just two months later, in April, 2016, Argote was back in jail with five more counts of felony sex crimes involving, now, two victims – these latest allegations stemmed from 2009.

The case has been deeply concerning to the Fresno community, where various aspects of the story have been reported several times over the year or so since last February. Now, finally, some closure: District Attorney Girard reports that Argote pled ‘no contest’ to child molestation of the two victims.


The February 2016 victim’s family, according to reports, says that Argote groomed their daughter, and indicated that the music teacher was charming, presentable, intelligent and confident. “Grooming” is a process with several proposed models and stages, but it’s always a gradual and calculated process by which children are unwillingly drawn into the act, and often, their parents are groomed to help enable the abuse.

The stages progress something like this:

  • targeting the victim, based on vulnerability such as emotional neediness and lower self-confidence
  • gaining the victim’s trust, getting to know the child’s needs and how to fill them, generating warmth and attention toward the child
  • filling the need for that child, which may involve gifts, attention and affection
  • developing a special relationship with the child and creating situations in which to be alone together
  • sexualizing the relationship, which may begin with talking, sharing of photos, tickling, touching, and eventually, moving to sex acts
  • maintaining control using secrecy, blame and threats

As the process moves through its stages, it’s easy to see that a predator does not just walk up to a random child in a dark alley and force sexual acts upon a child. Parents teach their child right from wrong, and a child would recognize the “wrong”, tell the parents, and the predator would quickly be out of the picture. Rather, the predator may spend months or years grooming a child (and the parents) so he is thought of as a friend, a mentor, a caring and loving adult. The predator has an end-game — and he wants to be able to abuse and control the child, long-term, on his schedule.

Here’s more on Grooming

What’s special about the county of Fresno?

What’s special about Fresno County, including Fresno and neighboring towns like Mendota, Kerman, Firebaugh and Clovis? In regards to music teacher child molestation, or any other teacher, sex abuse, absolutely nothing. The county is home to nearly a million residents; its county seat is the city of Fresno, California’s fifth-largest city (after Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco). Child sex abuse by educators happens everywhere there are children, meaning, it occurs literally everywhere. You wouldn’t find child sex abusers seeking employment in, for example, a nursing home. While there are no simple answers as to why someone uses a position of authority, influence and power to sexually abuse a child, there are certainly some common behaviors, such as grooming, described above. Being smaller than other California cities, we would naturally expect Fresno to have fewer families, fewer children, fewer schools, etc, and therefore, fewer cases of child sex abuse. Recent stories in the news about sex abuse by educators in cities up and down California like Vista, San Gabriel, Los Angeles, West Covina, Santee, Chula Vista, Irvine, Florence (in South Los Angeles) and San Jose only prove the point that it’s not whether the city is wealthy or poor, and not whether the community is any particular demographic. Fresno is a city with children, therefore it’s a city with child sex abuse.

More victims?

The two young women who have already come forward are very brave, not only on their own behalf, but on behalf of others in the community. Investigators are convinced, according to news reports, that there are more victims. In all likelihood, the parents and the investigators are correct, that there are many more victims, not just the two. The report of the first victim coming forward prompted the second victim to come forward; as this Argote’s story becomes known in the community, the more likely it is that other young victims will disclose the abuse.

Per research, two facts should make society cringe:

  • One child sex offender can have as many as 73 victims in their lifetime, and
  • One out of ten K-12 students is a victim of educator sexual misconduct.

It is incredibly unlikely that at 59, in 2009, Argote abused one young girl, and that seven years later he abused a second. It is probably the case that over Argote’s adulthood, there are dozens of victims, each groomed over time and eventually abused.


Parents of both survivors were in court for the sentencing. Though they wanted to keep their privacy, at least one of the families has indicated satisfaction with the punishment. The family felt that by the time Argote was released from prison, their child would be an adult, in a better position to deal with the situation. Eighteen years, though, will not be nearly long enough to erase the memories, and the lifelong effects that are often associated with adverse childhood experiences. So much is known about the long term harm of these experiences, including childhood sex abuse, thanks to the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study’s conclusion was that adverse childhood experiences, including sexual abuse, produce lifelong effects, both physical and emotional.

What to consider, if you’re considering a civil lawsuit for sexual abuse

If you’re considering your options regarding filing a lawsuit, know that although the process often seems overwhelming at first, it is a well-established fact that psychological and other benefits accrue to victims who file a lawsuit and stand up for themselves. For example:

    • Bringing a lawsuit lets a victim be active rather than passive
    • Monetary wins can pay for medical and psychological treatment
    • Monetary wins ALSO send a message:  Institutions will take notice of large verdicts because it affects their bottom line. It’s only once an institution’s checkbook is affected that it will begin to change procedures and policies and procedures, resulting in our children being kept safer in the long run
    • Civil lawsuits show a victim the support of both jurors and society

What’s the difference between criminal and civil justice?

In a case of childhood sexual abuse, there is often both a criminal element as well as a civil element. The difference is this:

A criminal lawsuit is brought, and charges are filed, by the government, in this case, the District Attorney. The primary goal is to punish the offender, and if he is convicted, he goes to prison. In the Argote case, that’s what the eighteen year sentence was.

A civil lawsuit is brought by the victim or the victim’s family, never by the government. The primary goal is financial compensation from the responsible party, the abuser as well as the institution or institutions that allowed the children to be sexually abused in the first place – in this case the institutions would be Mendota High School and Legends Music Sound Stage.

Sexual assault of a child is both a crime against society and a potential civil lawsuit. These two branches of our justice system help society, and help victims become survivors. If you have any questions about lawsuits or legal related to child sex abuse, please contact us.