ALHAMBRA (CNS) - A Santa Clarita man who pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting seven women was sentenced Wednesday to 310 years to life in prison by a judge who called him a "predator."
"Frankly, it's stunning how much pain and suffering one man can inflict," Superior Court Judge Jared Moses said after hearing statements from four victims who were attacked by Nicolas Morales. "We're here because of the courage of the seven women."
The judge noted that he believed all of the victims who testified at an earlier hearing that they didn't think they were going to survive the attacks, saying that one woman's head was smashed against a vehicle dashboard and that another woman was choked when she tried to fight back.
"The defendant was a predator pretending to be an Uber or Lyft driver," the judge said. "He took advantage of a position of trust by pretending to be a rideshare driver."
The judge also ordered the 49-year-old defendant to register as a sex offender if he is released from prison, but said he believes the defendant is too dangerous to ever live outside prison walls.
As his trial was underway last month, Morales pleaded no contest to 27 counts including forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sodomy by use of force and sexual penetration by a foreign object.
Morales' victims gave emotional accounts during the sentencing hearing, with one woman identified in court as Jane Doe #1 writing in a statement read in court on her behalf that she has "never been so hurt and broken before" and that she still has trauma and flashbacks.
Another woman, identified in court as Jane Doe #2, said she wishes that the defendant could know how he impacted his victims' lives.
"I just feel like my life, it just stopped there. I haven't been able to move on at all," she said.
Jane Doe #3 said she had "waited for this day for a very long time," saying she felt that she faced an imminent threat of death for three hours and wondered if it was her last day alive after calling for an Uber and getting in Morales' vehicle as he posed as a ride-hailing service driver.
"You didn't break me. You only broke yourself and your family," the woman said in an emotional statement.
Jane Doe #6 told the judge that she opted after the attack to run five miles from her job to her home instead of getting into a car with someone she didn't know, and that she started "blaming myself." She said she is still trying to find herself.
The series of attacks occurred in areas throughout Los Angeles County, including Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Burbank and Alhambra between October 2016 and January 2018.
Morales was arrested in February 2018 by Alhambra police and has remained behind bars since then.