Crime

This man could receive the longest prison sentence in Fresno Superior Court history

Cornelio Jimenez
Cornelio Jimenez Fresno Police Department

A Fresno Superior Court jury on Wednesday convicted a man of 36 counts in a child molestation and child porn case, which will carry a potential sentence of 1,882 years to life in prison.

At that, it would likely be the longest sentence ever handed down in Fresno County Superior Court.

Cornelio Jimenez, 42, was found guilty of 34 counts of child molestation on two girls who at the time were ages 4 and 7. He also was found guilty of possessing more than 600 images of child porn and using a child to produce porn. He previously pleaded guilty to failing to update his registration as a sex offender.

The guilty verdict for the 34 counts of child molestation each carry a possible sentence of 25 years to life in prison. But because Jimenez previously was convicted in Washington in 1997 for attempted child molestation, each sentence could be doubled to 50 years to life in prison, said Deborah Miller, the Fresno County deputy district attorney who prosecuted the case.

To her knowledge, Jimenez could face the longest sentence handed down in Fresno County Superior Court, Miller said.

"California has strong laws against sexual assault, especially when against children," Miller said. "We can’t give child molesters enough time in prison. There’s just not enough years to give them."

But his public defender, Angelica Rivera, said she hopes Judge Arlan L. Harrell won't hand down the maximum sentence. She plans to ask the judge to strike the prior case against Jimenez, which occurred when he was in his 20s, she said.

The DA's Office said once Jimenez reaches the age of 60 and had served 25 years, he will be eligible for release under the Elderly Parole Program.

Jimenez was arrested in 2015 after Fresno police received two cyber tips from Microsoft and Dropbox about the distribution of child porn.

"When we became aware that he was sending emails where he was referencing ongoing molestation of children in the home, the very next day we executed a search warrant on the house," said Fresno police Detective David Wilkin.

Investigators working on the case interviewed the two victims and were able to get Jimenez to confess, Wilkin said.

More than 40 videos, several photos of the victims and nearly 10,000 files of child porn were used as evidence in the case.

Wilkin said the case was particularly disturbing because Jimenez in emails taught others how to groom and victimize children.

"He was taking on a very active role of the victimization of children," Wilkin said. "This was not the typical case of looking at child pornography to get gratification."

The abuse of the two girls occurred for about a year from June 2014 to June 2015.

During the trial, both the victims, now 7 and 10, testified while Jimenez was in the courtroom, Miller said. The 7-year-old does not remember the abuse that occurred when she was 4, but the 10-year-old girl did and recounted it in court. The girls had a therapy dog in the courtroom while they took the stand, Miller said.

The prosecution also played numerous videos of the abuse during the trial.

"That was really difficult on the jury because they had to view the evidence and make a determination," Miller said.

Rivera said in a statement that from the beginning of the case, Jimenez offered to enter a plea in exchange for 25 years to life in prison "to avoid any further trauma to the children and their parents."

The district attorney's office declined because 25 years was not long enough "for the conduct of the case and the amount of pain and suffering he caused these children and the victimization he continued to perpetuate of all the other victims in the other child porn videos."

The district attorney's office offered a plea deal in exchange for 75 years to life as late as Feb. 15, but Jimenez declined and instead opted to go through with the trial.

"Frankly, I wish that the 16 jurors that sat there and saw all the evidence, that they didn’t have to go through that," Rivera said. "Viewing those videos is going to stick in their mind for a very long time."

Harrell thanked the jury for their work. "Cases like this one are always difficult," he said.

Miller thanked Wilkin for his work on the case, saying his interviews and investigation made the case. Wilkin thanked the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the agencies that collaborated on this case, such as Fresno police, Fresno County Sheriff's Office, Fresno County District Attorney's Office, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and Homeland Security Investigations.

Jimenez will be sentenced on May 8 and remains in Fresno County Jail on no bail.

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