Sexual assault conviction causes uproar

May 14, 2009 7:15:40 PM PDT
A controversial criminal case is raising eyebrows in the North Bay. The issue is over how to punish a man convicted of two attempted sexual assaults.

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Jaime Hernandez Gonzalez admitted he entered a Cotati home, took off his clothes, approached two women who were sleeping and managed to remove one of the victims' pajama bottoms.

When the two women screamed and ran, Hernandez Gonzalez fled the scene, and that's where it ends. There was no sexual assault.

"The issue becomes what is an appropriate sentence in a case like this and we don't cut off hands, we don't stone people, we don't throw away the key and lock them up because that violates human dignity," said Superior Court Judge Gary Medvigy.

A jury had found Hernandez guilty of assault with the intent to commit a sexual crime during a burglary -- a crime that carries a mandatory term of life in prison.

His lawyers argued the law is too broad and that the punishment did not fit the crime, especially because Hernandez had no prior convictions and had no weapons on him.

"On many occasions, I went to the district attorney to settle the case and was not successful in doing that. On one occasion we agreed to a 12 year sentence," said public defender Bill Marioni.

Judge Gary Medvigy agreed and replaced the verdict with a lesser charge of residential burglary. It is a decision that outraged the father of one of victims.

"And I do believe he will do it to somebody else," said the victim's father Gary Howdyshell.

"How is your daughter doing?" asked ABC7's Lyanne Melendez.

She has her moments, you know, it's not over yet. It will take awhile," said Howdyshell.

"I think it does a disservice to all victims of crime to say just because I didn't do what I could have done doesn't mean I didn't commit a crime," said Deputy District Attorney Tashawn Sanders.

Hernandez will still have to register as a sexual offender.

As expected, the judge sentenced Hernandez Gonzalez to six years in prison. Because he has already served some time, he'll likely be released in four.

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