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Ex-Lawmaker Sentenced for Having Sex With Girl

July 04, 1997|From a Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Former state Assemblyman Tom Connolly, who served a single term from eastern San Diego County, was sentenced Thursday to two years in state prison for having sex with a 14-year-old girl.

Connolly, 51, a lawyer and Vietnam veteran, said he disagrees with a probation officer's evaluation that he is not remorseful. He vowed to rebuild his life despite being a sex offender.

"I want to prove to you that I'm a better man than has been presented in this case," Connolly told Superior Court Judge William Kennedy. "I have a large mountain to climb if I am to rebuild my life, and I intend to do that."

Connolly, who is appealing his conviction, was taken into custody immediately after Kennedy imposed the sentence. The former lawmaker was convicted for taking a runaway to a National City motel in 1995 and having oral sex with her. He had admitted renting a motel room for the girl but denied engaging in sex. The jury took two hours to convict him of three counts.

Kennedy and the prosecutor, Deputy Atty. Gen. Lora Fox Martin, called Connolly's case a blot on the San Diego legal community, which is still reeling from the corruption convictions of three judges.

"Before us today is a true Jekyll-Hyde personality," Kennedy told Connolly. "Shakespeare wrote something to the effect of 'What tangled lives we lead when we practice to deceive.' He could have been writing that about you."

A conservative Democrat, Connolly staged an upset victory in 1992 over Steve Baldwin, a Republican and former organizer for the Christian right.

Two years later, Baldwin defeated Connolly amid revelations about Connolly's checkered past, including cocaine addiction, bankruptcy and child-support delinquency. Connolly also had been under surveillance by the San Diego police vice squad for allegedly cruising the streets in search of prostitutes.

After being defeated for reelection, Connolly was a lawyer for the public defender's office, specializing in cases involving adolescents. When he won in 1992, he had billed himself on the ballot as a "children's advocate."

Three former members of his Assembly staff have accused him of sexual harassment. Two of the three were each given $100,000 by the Assembly to settle the charges; the third lost a civil trial.

Before he was sentenced, Connolly conceded that his prospects after serving his prison sentence will be bleak. "It won't be easy getting a job," he said.

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