After a five-week trial, a Santa Barbara jury convicted Ronald Larry Ledesma, 56, of a rape that occurred in November 2015. During the trial, witnesses testified they’d seen Ledesma pulling the victim from outside a shelter to his RV, corroborating the victim’s testimony. Ledesma had been living in the recreational vehicle, which was parked in a private lot near East Mason and North Quarantina streets and inoperative, according to Santa Barbara Police. The victim was a transient who was “severely intoxicated” at the time of the assault, the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office stated in a press release.
Ledesma is on his third strike, as he had two prior prison sentences for robbery. With the guilty verdicts for rape and sexual penetration of an intoxicated person and two counts of battery, plus his priors, Ledesma faces 63 years to life. His sentencing is scheduled for October 2.
The Santa Barbara Police Department rarely issues a press release discussing the results of a trial, but it did in this case. When asked, SBPD spokesperson Sergeant Joshua Morton said the department did on occasion, “usually to show the great work that officers and detectives are doing.” He added that the case served as “an example that no matter who the victim is, we take it seriously and professionally, and work hard to bring the suspect to justice.” In particular, he said, the case took a lot of work by investigating officer B. Ahrens, along with many others.
In response to the Independent‘s inquiry whether the city’s oversize-vehicle ordinance, which was put in place to limit the number of vans and RVs being used as homes and went into effect September 5, had any influence, Morton stated Ledesma’s RV was not a Sprinter but an older, large RV, parked in a private lot on the city’s lower Eastside. The trial happened to come to a conclusion about the same time the ordinance was released, he said. Morton observed that it had taken two years to bring the case to a guilty verdict, a timing that the police cannot control.
District Attorney Joyce Dudley praised the courage of “Jane Doe” in this case, the pseudonym used in sensitive legal cases, and the thorough investigation that culminated in Ledesma’s “inability to ever harm another vulnerable victim again.” Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Karapetian, who conducted the prosecution, commended the jury, stating that the verdict “demonstrates that our laws protect all victims equally, despite their socioeconomic backgrounds, wealth, or class.”