A 30-year-old man who was caught sexually assaulting a female student from Korea at Tonic Nightclub last summer was sentenced to two years in state prison on Tuesday. Once he completes his prison term, Elpidio Garcia-Venegas will be deported back to Mexico.
Garcia-Venegas was arrested around 1 a.m. on August 17 after one of Tonic’s busboys caught him trapping and groping a 22-year-old female victim on the dance floor. Over the course of the investigation, it emerged that Garcia-Venegas had been drinking with the victim before he pushed her against one of the dance floor’s walls and reached under her dress to grab her privates. The loud music drowned out her cries for help until the busboy saw the woman, who was enrolled in an area language school, “visibly distraught, crying, and looking panicked.”
The employee shined his flashlight on Garcia-Venegas and asked what was going on. He replied the two were simply “sexy dancing” and attempted to leave the club, but the busboy called security, and Garcia-Venegas was detained until police arrived. He was arrested and booked into Santa Barbara County Jail the next day for felony sexual battery and placed on an immigration hold.
Garcia-Venegas has remained behind bars since, and up until very recently maintained his innocence, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Paula Waldman. It was only when the case was about to go to trial that he changed his plea to guilty. He faced a maximum of four years in prison. Because of credit Garcia-Venegas received for time served, he will likely be in prison for less than a year before he’s deported to Mexico, said Waldman. Garcia-Venegas was also ordered to pay $445 to cover his victim’s counseling bills.
Waldman thanked the Tonic Nightclub busboy not only for intervening during the assault but also for statements he gave in court during preliminary hearings that helped secure the prosecution’s case. Waldman also noted that Garcia-Venegas was then employed at Olio Pizzeria, but the restaurant’s owner, Elaine Morello, said he presented proper documentation at the time of his hiring.