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Simi Valley Man Guilty of Multiple Rape Counts

Courts: Victor M. Becerra is convicted of 39 felonies and misdemeanors. Jurors say there is no doubt he lured girls to his home, gave them alcohol or drugs and attacked them.

March 19, 1996|JEFF McDONALD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A Simi Valley man whom prosecutors called a sexual predator was found guilty Monday of dozens of counts of forcible rape, unlawful sex and numerous other charges.

The white-toothed smile that Victor M. Becerra flashed so often during the 10-day jury trial disappeared quickly Monday as the court clerk read 39 guilty verdicts that could bring him life in prison.

Dressed in a gold blazer, yellow button-down shirt and milk chocolate-colored slacks, Becerra dabbed at his eyes and stared down at the defendant's table through much of the hourlong proceeding.

One young girl in the gallery pleaded with a bailiff to allow her to hug Becerra before he was led away.

Although the Ventura County Superior Court jury acquitted Becerra, 27, of a handful of charges, the boyish-looking convicted rapist faces life in prison plus about 80 years when he is sentenced next month.

"I'm convinced that [the verdicts] would have been guilty as charged on every count if the jurors had gotten a chance to sit down with these girls," Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael K. Frawley said outside the courtroom.

Jurors said there was no doubt after two weeks of testimony that Becerra was responsible for enticing young girls to his home, furnishing them with drugs and alcohol and then raping or molesting them.

"He came across as a predator," said jury foreman Michael Smith, a technical writer from Port Hueneme. "He cruised arcades and mini-marts just looking for them."

Becerra also was found in violation of probation terms he received after a 1991 conviction for felony false imprisonment.

Frawley said Becerra, at 22, was convicted of tying up his girlfriend and threatening her with an Exacto knife and a machete.

*

In all, jurors found Becerra guilty of 39 felonies and misdemeanors. He was acquitted on nine remaining counts, in part because jurors said they could not distinguish the severity of the assaults.

"The problem was whether the force or restraint was there," Smith said.

The jury acquitted Becerra of false imprisonment, committing lewd acts with a minor, sexual battery and other charges.

But his convictions included unlawful sex, forcible rape, other counts of committing lewd acts with a minor, providing minors drugs or alcohol and numerous additional charges. "As much of a monster as he is, it isn't easy to send away a kid" to prison, the jury foreman said.

Superior Court Judge Frederick A. Jones praised the jury for what he called a responsible verdict, although he reserved further comment until sentencing, which is scheduled for April 19.

"Your attention to this case was extraordinarily commendable," Jones told the panel. "We can sense when juries are hard at work. . . . You took this case as seriously as we did."

Deputy Public Defender Brian Boles said he was not particularly surprised by the verdicts. But he was happy to see some acquittals.

"In many instances where they had a question on the use of force, they gave us the benefit of the doubt," Boles said outside the courtroom. Becerra "is obviously very disappointed with the jury's verdict."

During the emotion-filled trial, 10 girls testified against the defendant.

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Prosecutors alleged that Becerra deliberately dressed to look as young as possible, then went hunting for young female victims. According to testimony, he would befriend the girls in public places, then take them to his Simi Valley home and offer them marijuana and alcohol.

At least one victim testified that Becerra readily offered her and her friends drugs or alcohol, but declined to use them himself.

Frawley called Becerra a sexual predator and urged Jones to impose a stiff sentence next month. "Jones can make sure that [Becerra] never molests another child," he said.

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