The judge called it an attempted execution: Raul Jimenez looked straight into the face of a rookie Los Angeles police officer, shot him in the eye and then continued to fire as he lay on the street.
His victim, Jay Cicinelli, 26, survived the bullets, but lost his eye and his dream of being an officer.
"Mr. Jimenez," wrote Cicinelli's mother in a letter read aloud before his sentencing Friday, "you have taken Jay's eye, his face is disfigured, you have damaged his arms, his legs and his stomach, his job is gone and his dream of being a police officer is gone."
Judge Marsha N. Revel then sentenced Jimenez, 48, of Lennox, to life in prison. In addition, Jimenez will serve a 28-year term on separate charges involving assault on his girlfriend.
While a detective read the mother's letter, the defendant's head was raised but his eyes were downcast. His wife and two of his five children watched the proceedings tearfully, his 13-year-old daughter sobbing. The thick-bearded Jimenez glanced at them and quickly turned away.
Cicinelli did not appear at the sentencing because he was recovering from his 10th surgery, which he underwent two days earlier, according to his mother, Donna.
"He wanted to be here very badly," she said, adding that her son has been assigned to home leave pending a decision on his disability pension. She said he is undergoing surgery to rebuild his eye socket, and is determined to work in some branch of law enforcement again.
In September, Cicinelli said an internal Los Angeles Police Department memo that indicated he would be fired had been leaked to him. Police officials did not comment on the alleged memo.
Cicinelli's dream was shattered Dec. 14, 1996, less than three weeks after he graduated from the Police Academy. That night, he approached the passenger side of a white car during a traffic stop in South-Central Los Angeles and found himself looking down the barrel of a gun.
Wrote his mother: "Jay said the gun you were pointing at him looked so large that in that moment the barrel seemed as big as a trash can lid.
"[Jay] said you kept shooting him while he was down and he felt his body bounce upward with each shot, and thinking each one would take him out."
On Friday, Jimenez's attorney asked the judge to consider in her sentencing that the defendant is a family man with no criminal record who was "extremely intoxicated" the night the shooting occurred.
But based on testimony in Jimenez's trial, Revel said she rejected this characterization. She described him as the "opposite of a model father and husband," who cheated on his wife, hit his lover in the forehead with a bottle, held a gun to her and sexually assaulted her.
"When he didn't get his way, he became a bully," said Revel. "He carried a gun around all the time."
Jimenez also was convicted of aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon and false imprisonment for his attacks on Guadalupe Silva, his lover, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Barbara Turner. The 28-year term for those crimes will be followed by the life sentence for the attempted murder of the officer. Jimenez could become eligible for parole only during this second term.
Revel said she sentenced Jimenez to the maximum terms partly because of the defenselessness of his victims.
"While the officer is on the ground writhing in pain and losing his eye," said Revel, "he continues to shoot the officer in the back until he runs out of bullets."
Members of the Jimenez family, who maintain that he is innocent, left the courtroom crying after the sentence was read. Earlier in the morning, the defendant's 22-year-old son, George, said: "Hopefully, sometime we'll be back together.
"We're always going to be there for him," he said. "We're never going to let him down, because we love him."
Donna Cicinelli said she felt nothing but sorrow for Jimenez's wife and children.
"What he has done to his family must be unbearable to them," she said. "I'd rather have both of my sons shot than [for them] to be shooters."