Valentin Velasco, a man accused in string of sexual assaults dating back to 2008, pleaded no contest on Wednesday to nine different felonies. As part of a plea agreement he was then sentenced to 17 years and four months in state prison.
Originally, Velasco was facing 12 different charges that included three misdemeanor counts of trespassing, two counts of residential burglary, three counts of annoying and molesting a child, three counts of assault with intent to rape an unconscious victim, and one count of rape. But as part of the bargain struck with the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s Office, the three misdemeanors were dropped, and a potential life sentence with the possibility of parole was avoided.
Apparently, Velasco’s modus operandi was to break into his victims’ homes and slip into bed with them while they slept. He would then sexually assault them and flee. He was arrested in March 2009, after police lured him into a trap with the help of one of his coworkers.
When asked why the DA’s Office did not pursue the life sentence, Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen explained that even if they had done so and succeeded, Velasco would have been eligible for parole in as little as seven years, “There was no way we could guarantee he would go away forever,” he said. The plea agreement however, stipulates that Velasco must serve at least 85 percent of his 17-year term before he will be eligible for parole. He will also be subject to mandatory sex offender registration for the rest of his life.
In addition, if Velasco is ever convicted of another felony, California’s three strike law will take effect. It did not apply in this case, Zonen explained, because Velasco lacked the necessary prior felony conviction.