Fresno prosecutor Nicole Galstan asked a judge on Friday to sentence Rene Lopez to 1,503 years in prison for raping his teenage daughter over a four-year period, ending in 2013.
Judge Edward Sarkisian Jr. agreed, sentencing the 41-year-old Lopez to the longest-known prison sentence in Fresno Superior Court history. It stands in stark contrast to recent high-profile sentencings in sexual assault cases such as six months for ex-Stanford swimmer Brock Turner and, just this week, 60 days for a Montana man convicted of felony incest for raping his 12-year-old daughter.
In announcing the punishment, Sarkisian told Lopez he violated a position of trust, engaged in violent conduct and is a “serious danger to society.” Sarkisian also noted that Lopez had never shown remorse and has blamed his daughter for his predicament.
Lopez, who sat shackled in the courtroom, sat silently, never acknowledging his daughter, who told Sarkisian that she feared her father. (The Fresno Bee does not name victims of sexual abuse.)
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“When my father abused me, I was young. I had no power, no voice. I was defenseless,” said the daughter, who now is 23 years old. She also told the judge that her father never has shown remorse for her pain and suffering.
She then thanked Galstan and senior investigator Stacy Cordero for helping her overcome her ordeal and giving her justice.
When my father abused me, I was young. I had no power, no voice. I was defenseless.
In September, a jury found Lopez guilty of 186 felony counts of sexual assault, including dozens of counts of rape of a minor.
Galstan said the victim was first sexually abused by a family friend. But instead of the father protecting his daughter, “he chose to turn her into a piece of property and use her to satisfy his sexual needs,” the prosecutor told the judge.
The victim was raped two to three times a week from May 2009 to May 2013. Galstan said it ended only when the girl got the courage to leave him.
Even then, her father would drive by her new home and later leave love songs on her message machine, the judge said.
Lopez was arrested by Fresno police in November 2013 after his daughter called police to report the abuse.
At Friday’s hearing, Sarkisian read the date of each felony count, which included Lopez raping his daughter on Christmas and other holidays.
Before he announced the sentence, Sarkisian said Lopez turned down two plea deals. Before his preliminary hearing, if he had admitted his guilt, prosecutors would have recommended 13 years in prison. Lopez rejected the offer.
Then before his trial, he was offered 22 years in prison if he admitted his guilt. Lopez declined that offer, saying he should be released from jail for the time he already had served, Sarkisian said.
“He ruined her teenage years and made her feel like it was her fault,” Galstan said in arguing for the maximum sentence.
In September, a jury found Rene Lopez, 41, of Fresno guilty of 186 felony counts of sexual assault, including dozens of counts of rape of a minor.
Lopez, who did not testify in his trial, wrote in a letter to the judge that he didn’t get a fair trial and that his daughter lied on the witness stand. “It’s hearsay,” he says in the letter.
But Sarkisian told him that he received a fair trial and that the evidence was overwhelming.
In addition to the victim’s testimony, jurors heard entries from her diary in which she chronicled her father’s crimes against her, Galstan said.
And when she got pregnant from her father, he paid for the abortion, the judge said.
In addition to the prison sentence, Sarkisian said Lopez will have to register as a sex offender.
Addressing the victim, the judge said: “You are a courageous young woman.”