A former Los Banos Enterprise sports editor was sentenced to six years in prison for rape Tuesday, during a hearing filled with tears on both sides of the courtroom.
Henry Perez Jr., 36, was convicted by a jury last month of raping a 20-year-old woman in 2009.
Prosecutors said Perez raped the victim after she'd become heavily intoxicated at a party. The victim couldn't drive and went to the defendant's Los Banos home to sober up, when the rape happened.
His voice trembling, Perez offered a tearful apology during the hearing, telling the victim he "never intended" to hurt her. "I'm sorry," Perez said. "I just hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me. That's all I ask."
After Perez apologized, the victim stood up and addressed the court, saying the apology wasn't heartfelt. The victim also told Judge Carol Ash that Perez had tried to contact her through a third party after he was convicted. "I don't think you're sorry; you know what you did," the victim told Perez. "You may have a front that you put up for all these people, but we know who you are."
Perez asked Ash for "leniency, compassion and mercy," saying the rape was not "something (I) set out to do," calling it a "mistake."
His attorney, Michael Coughlin, told Ash his client should receive probation, noting Perez had expressed remorse and had an otherwise clean criminal record. "The D.A. seems to think he's a predator in waiting, but I don't see that," Coughlin told Ash.
Despite those words, the judge wasn't swayed by Perez's apology or his lack of a criminal record, saying a midterm sentence of six years in prison was appropriate. In determining Perez's sentence, Ash said that he took advantage of a vulnerable person and his thought process was clear.
Ash said she was also concerned about the victim's allegations Perez had tried reaching her through a third party. Ash said the victim was drunk and unable to consent to sex. "I think Mr. Perez clearly knew what he was doing that evening," Ash said.
Perez's mother sat in the back of the courtroom with her family members during the hearing, shedding tears.
Before Tuesday's hearing, Perez faced a maximum of eight years in prison.
During trial, although Perez admitted having sex with the woman, he claimed it was consensual.
Because of his credit for time served in the Merced County Jail, Perez will probably be released in five years. Because of his conviction, he must register as a convicted sex offender for the rest of his life.
Perez worked at the Enterprise as a sports editor for around three years and left the paper in 2003, according to Enterprise staff.
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.