The son of Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente was sentenced today to 14 years in state prison for sexually assaulting four women ranging in age from 15 to 24 in an 18-month period between October 2003 and April 2005.
Ignacio Rafael De La Fuente Jr., 34, chose not to speak at today's hearing, which was packed with many of his family members, including his parents, two other Oakland City Council members, Pat Kernighan and Henry Chang, and a group called Bay Area Women Against Rape, which supports the victims in the case.
None of the four victims spoke today and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer refused to let the mother of the victim who was 15 when she was sexually assaulted speak.
De La Fuente had faced multiple life sentences if he'd been convicted of all five counts against him, which were two counts of rape and one count each of assault with intent to commit rape, digital penetration by force and forced oral copulation.
But May 3, one week into a jury trial, prosecutor Brian Owens agreed to drop three kidnapping enhancement clauses in exchange for De La Fuente Jr.'s guilty plea to four instances of sexual assault.
Three of the victims had already testified against him and the fourth was scheduled to testify later that day.
The plea bargain called for a 14-year state prison sentence, so there weren't any surprises at today's hearing. De La Fuente Jr.'s attorney, Robert Beles, said he will be eligible for parole in less than 10 years because he's been in custody since April 29, 2005.
All four sexual assault victims testified at De La Fuente Jr.'s preliminary hearing last June and identified him as their attacker. DNA evidence also tied De La Fuente Jr. to two of the victims.
Owens said three of the four women were prostitutes. He said it was unclear if the fourth woman, who was 15 when she was assaulted in April 2005, was a prostitute.
But defense attorney Robert Beles, who subjected all the victims to grueling cross-examinations, alleged that the girl also was a prostitute.
The plea bargain caused regrets for many of the parties in the case.
Beles said today that the prosecution's case “had a lot of problems” because he thought the victims weren't credible and “there are quite a few questions about the police investigation.”
Beles said a key factor in De La Fuente Jr.'s decision to plead guilty is that he wanted to avoid the potential of havingto spend the rest of his life in prison.
But Marcia Blackstock of Bay Area Women Against Rape said “justice isn't served” because she thinks De La Fuente Jr. deserved a much longer sentence “because of all the havoc he caused.”
Blackstock said, “It helps to have people in power in your family.”
Judges often let family members of crime victims speak at the sentencings of defendants and Blackstock said it was “outrageous” for Hymer not to allow the mother of the 15-year-old victim to speak.
“When your child is raped you go through the same experience,” Blackstock said.
De La Fuente Sr. and his wife, Elvia, declined to speak to reporters after today's hearing. They and other family members and supporters wore white ribbons that they said symbolized faith in De La Fuente Jr.
Asked if she thought the case against her son was a miscarriage of justice, Elvia De La Fuente nodded her head “yes.”
Beles said she was the main force behind a Web site created in September that alleges that De La Fuente Jr. was framed in a political vendetta.
The Web site, called delafuenteconspiracy.com, claims that police investigators blew the case out of proportion because they wanted to destroy De La Fuente Sr.'s political career as he ran for mayor in the 2006 election.
The Web site alleges that even though De La Fuente Jr. avoided a life in prison sentence, the case against him was an “injustice,” the facts “didn't connect,” the evidence was “questionable” and there were “obvious tell-tale signs of a classic set-up.”
The site says the De La Fuente family hired a private investigator who found “clear indications of police misconduct that included falsified and altered police reports, witness coercion and plain dirty politics.”
Although De La Fuente Sr. was endorsed by the powerful Oakland Police Officers Association inhis unsuccessful campaign against Ron Dellums and other candidates in the 2006 election, the site alleges he “was openly disliked by more than a handful of Oakland's high-ranking police officers who felt he had 'too much power for a Mexican.'”
After the Web site appeared, Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff said today that he has no doubt that De La Fuente Jr. is guilty of sexually assaulting the four women.
Orloff said, “I'm very satisfied that everything was done appropriately” in the case.
— Bay City News