LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former Monterey Park police officer convicted of committing crimes against three women during traffic stops, in which he forced them to expose themselves and fondled two of them, was sentenced today to seven years and eight months in state prison.
Superior Court Judge Douglas Sortino also ordered Israel Sanchez, 42, to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
The judge cited his respect for military veterans including Sanchez and said he believed that it had been established that the defendant suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, but said he had to contrast that with what he called ``very serious and aggravated crimes'' involving a police officer who was on duty when he ``took advantage of a position of trust.''
A seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated for less than five hours before finding Sanchez guilty on March 12 of all the charges against him: five counts each of sexual battery by restraint and assault under color of authority, three counts of false imprisonment and one count of soliciting a bribe.
The prosecution said the crimes were committed between July 28 and August 15, 2014, against victims who were 19 to 28 years old at the time.
Deputy District Attorney Hyunah Suh pointed to similar testimony from all three victims -- two of whom wrote victim impact statements that were read during the sentencing hearing.
``They had no motive to come in here and lie,'' Suh told jurors during the trial, saying that the three were ``not coming to court because they had a vendetta or some secret agenda.''
The prosecutor said Sanchez ``preyed'' on women who found themselves in vulnerable circumstances and ``needlessly insist(ed) on searches,'' even after one had already been conducted, and that he should have relied on his own advice.
He was heard on tape telling one of the women, ``Fate should have it that if you're doing bad things, you're going to get caught.''
Defense attorney Michael Goldfeder countered that the sexual abuse never took place and suggested that the victims were trying to ``get back'' at a police officer.
``There is no possible way this officer would ever do those acts,'' Goldfeder told the jury.
Three other women testified as character witnesses for Sanchez, whose attorney called him a ``decorated Marine'' and married father of three children.
Sanchez's attorney said his client has lost his career and will not have an opportunity to work as a police officer again.
Addressing the judge shortly before the sentence was imposed, the former officer denied pressuring the women to expose themselves. Sanchez told the judge that his heart has ``always been in the right place.''
The prosecutor countered, ``We're not here to relitigate what's already been established ... that you are guilty of these crimes.''
The judge said he believed the former officer's statement was ``minimizing'' his behavior, and called the evidence against Sanchez ``very strong.''
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