It’s been a long time coming, but finally, some of the victims of day care provider Guadalupe Almaguer know what power – and justice – feel like.
On Tuesday, Mono County Superior Court Judge Mark Magit sentenced former Mammoth day care provider “Lupe” Almaguer, 58, to 60 years to life in prison, following his arrest in early October 2010 on suspicion of child sexual abuse.
He was sentenced on four counts of Penal Code 288(a) or “lewd and lascivious acts .... with a child under the age of 14”. Each count carries a sentence of 15 years to life. Magit said the sentences must be served consecutively, with no chance of parole until they are all served.
The judge said that in his view, the nature of the crimes justify the maximum sentence for several reasons including these:
• The crimes were committed over a long period of time (not just a case of one time “aberrant behavior”),
• The crimes were committed with a degree of “sophistication and planning,”
• The crimes were committed against “multiple victims,” which is considered to be the “most dangerous” kind of perpetrator,
• The victims “were particularly vulnerable” due to both their young ages, and the fact that they were in a day care situation which “built trust then abused trust” and more,
• The victims suffered “irrevocable harm.”
Magit also noted the fact that pedophiles and other sex offenders (an expert hired by the defense tested Almaguer and determined Almaguer qualified as a diagnosed pedophile) have a very high rate of committing similar crimes after their release, another reason to pursue the maximum sentence for Almaguer.
“It is beyond dispute that Mr/ Almaguer is a pedophile, despite his best intentions,” Magit stated, noting that Almaguer had expressed strong remorse for his crimes.
“A line that should not have been crossed was crossed, repeatedly. It can be confusing to a pedophile, but it cannot be confusing to the court,” Magit said.
“He will have to serve approximately 53 years in state prison before he is eligible for parole,” Deputy District Attorney Todd Graham said after the sentencing Wednesday, meaning that Almaguer, in his late 50s now, is thus expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Almaguer was arrested in early October of 2010, after an investigation by law enforcement. The investigation was triggered by one of his victims (now an adult) telling the police that she had been abused by him when she was a child.
The investigation resulted in Almaguer confessing to at least some of his crimes.
After his arrest, and faced with evidence and other accusations of abuse from other victims, Almaguer admitted he was guilty of sexually molesting five children.
(A fifth victim was identified as part of Almaguer’s plea agreement, but this victim was not named as one of the four counts against Almaguer).
Almaguer came into the courtroom with his eyes downcast. At no time did he ever look directly at the audience. He did give a short statement, saying, “I am truly, truly sorry,” and that he hopes the victims can now move on and “follow their dreams.”
Almaguer’s attorney, David Hammond, argued to limit Almaguer’s time in prison to the minimum of 15 years with eligibility for parole after that for several reasons. These included the fact that Almaguer confessed to some crimes and, Hammond said, because Almaguer is unlikely to commit such crimes after a 15-year sentence due to his advanced age. A lack of violence associated with the crimes was also noted.
But prosecutor Graham argued against leniency. He stated that Almaguer is a “molester masquerading as a saint,” not only because of his crimes against children, but because of the fact that Almaguer has been a deeply loved and trusted member of the community for many years. To many children, he was a trusted confidant and mentor. To many parents, he was a friend, Graham noted.
“He lied for two decades,” Graham said, noting that as parents dropped off their children, believing their children were safe, “it was implicit (from Almaguer) that “You can trust me.”’
“He lied. There is no greater position of trust than a day care provider,” Graham said. While the “kids were dropped off while their parents worked, he, in fact became their parent. ...Resistance and escape were likely futile. ...”
One audience member, who asked that her name not be made public, read a prepared letter, ending with, “Lupe, I despise you.”
Graham noted that some of the abuse with which Almaguer was charged occurred as late as 2010 and began as early as 1990.
About 12 parents and/or family members of victims attended the sentencing. Several parents, whose children were not named as one of the four victims, spoke on condition of anonymity and told the Times that their children, too, had been molested by Almaguer, but that to protect them, they had decided not to press charges and instead are dealing with the abuse through private counseling and other means.
“My child was molested by Lupe in 2002 when he was two and a half years old,” said a mother, K.B. “He told me exactly what happened, but due to the fact that he was so young, and it was all verbal, it was his word against Lupe’s, and I was told there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him.
“How do I feel today? I feel hollow. It’s a hollow victory. I am glad he was finally convicted, I am glad he can no longer hurt any other children, but why did it have to take nine more years? How many other children did he hurt in those nine years?”
At that time, many supporters of Almaguer banded together, even helping to pay his bail, K.B. said. Some have since apologized to her for not believing her.
Another mother whose daughter was a victim of Almaguer said she found out about it after Almaguer was arrested last year.
“My daughter called me crying hysterically and said it also happened to her sister,” she said. “I raised my children to talk about everything but this was something they could not bring themselves to talk about.”
Another mother said she was seeking counseling for her two sons, whom she believes were also molested by Almaguer.
The sentence was pronounced at about 3 p.m. The hearing began at about 2:10 p.m.
Although the audience was restrained and quiet for the most part, immediately after the sentence was pronounced and as Almaguer was leaving the courtroom, one man in the audience said, “Rot, you piece of garbage.”
The audience also clapped when Judge Magit pronounced his sentence. Most of the parents were in tears for much of the proceedings.
Almaguer will be moved to the state prison in Tracy.
He was also ordered to provide a full financial report to the court and to pay some restitution to the victims.