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Man receives 862-year term in gang rape

After eluding police for more than a decade, Fernando Maldonado, 35, is sentenced in the sexual attacks on two women in 1991.

February 06, 2007|Tami Abdollah | Times Staff Writer

A man who gang-raped two Los Angeles women was sentenced Monday to 862 years in prison without the possibility of parole, after eluding police for more than a decade.

Fernando Maldonado, 35, also known as Hector Santos Padilla, was convicted in November of 100 counts of gang rape and sexual assault for the Feb. 8, 1991, attacks against the women.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy-Powell called the case "particularly horrible" and said the defendant has "shown absolutely no remorse."

"He's an individual not fit to be with human beings," Kennedy-Powell said. "He's done nothing useful while in the U.S. but commit crimes and prey on defenseless humans for his own pleasure."

The women, Karla and Erica, were leaving a celebration dinner for Karla's 23rd birthday at Cafe Sushi near the Beverly Center with plans to continue the party at a club. (The women asked that their last names be withheld; The Times generally does not identify sexual abuse victims.)

Erica had drunk too much and was vomiting on a quiet side street when Maldonado and an accomplice kidnapped the women at gunpoint and drove them six miles to his third-floor apartment near MacArthur Park in Los Angeles.

Maldonado, who was not affiliated with a gang, invited two members of the MS-13 street gang into his apartment, prosecutors said. He, the accomplice and the two gang members raped and sexually assaulted the pair for about seven hours, prosecutors said.

One of the men, Julian Robert Chacon, was sentenced in 1994 to 225 years in prison. A third suspect was killed in a drive-by shooting in 1991. The remaining suspect, identified by Maldonado as his uncle, remains at large.

The women were not in court Monday, but Karla listened in on speakerphone. She and Erica delivered statements at an earlier hearing in January.

"I've had 16 years of not enjoying the day of my birth," said Karla, whose 39th birthday is Thursday. "I can now put them behind me and gain closure."

After eluding police for more than a decade, Maldonado, an undocumented immigrant from Honduras, was picked up by border police in Amado, Ariz., in 2002 on suspicion of drug offenses in San Francisco and Oakland as well as the rapes in Los Angeles.

Speaking from the bench, Kennedy-Powell said that while the debate over human rights for undocumented individuals has merit, "we look at someone like Mr. Maldonado, who has no right to be in this country

Deputy Dist. Atty. Beatriz Dieringer said she was pleased with the sentence. She said Karla and Erica were doing better and are looking into further counseling.

"No amount of years can take away the turmoil and trauma that these victims suffered," Dieringer said. "But this goes to alleviate their fears, knowing this man can't come back to them and do anything."

During the trial, the defense had argued the women were Maldonado's cocaine clients and that they agreed to consensual sex as part of a drug party. Ken Nakamura, deputy alternate public defender, had said he planned to file an appeal.

Nakamura declined to comment Monday.

"Despite all the laws passed that give victims more rights in criminal cases, in most cases the person on trial in the courtroom in a rape case is the victim," said Gail Abarbanel, director of the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center.

Although Maldonado, sentenced under 1991 law, can have his sentence reduced by half for good behavior, he will still be serving a "virtual life sentence," Dieringer said.

As of Dec. 31, 2006, 11 people in California were serving sentences of 800 years or longer, said Terry Thornton, a spokeswoman with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Det. Andrew Purdy of the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Division was working the sex crimes unit in Hollywood in 1991 and has handled the case since then.

"These were honest-to-God, normal, decent people that were victimized," said Purdy, who calls the victims his "surrogate daughters."

Along with the prison term, Maldonado was ordered to pay up to $10,000 in restitution to the victims.

tami abdollah@latimes.com

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