Joe Walker, a Mammoth man arrested in January for various sex crimes against a juvenile Santa Barbara girl, was sentenced to state prison for five years this morning in Santa Barbara Superior Court, according to Santa Barbara Senior Deputy District Attorney Mary Barron.
"He was remanded to jail today and they will transport him to state prison" sometime in the next week, Barron said.
Walker was also ordered to register as a sex offender for life and to pay restitution in an amount yet to be determined (based on ongoing claims submitted on behalf of the victim, Barron said), and to pay a $6,000 fine to the victim of the sex crimes he pleaded guilty to.
At the sentencing today, the female juvenile victim's father and mother had written letters, which were read aloud to the court by Barron.
"Nothing will ever make up for the years that have been stolen from my girl," she read. "And nothing will ever make up from the girl that has been stolen from us. I have spent almost every day at her side, arranging for therapy, dealing with her school, excusing her absences, wide wake on 24-hour-suicide watch. It is hard for me to fathom that we are in this place. It has been a time of cold heavy blackness and absolute grief. I have never known tragedy and heartache, flat terror and rawness like I have experienced this year. I have never known what it is like to lie on the floor, unable to get up, sobbing with torment, while some unknown fore tears my heart out. I feel humiliated and humble that I once called you my friend. I was duped. If I feel this way, I can only imagine how my daughter must feel. I don't think you can be sentenced to enough years for what you have done."
Walker was arrested on Jan. 4 in Mammoth along with Mammoth Hospital surgeon Dr. Andrew Bourne on suspicion of several child sex crimes, including illegal communication with a child to facilitate sex. Walker was also later charged with several counts of a “lewd act” with a child.
More charges were expected to be filed against Bourne until his death in late January, which ended the charges against him. The Santa Barbara DA’s office charged that both men, known to be good friends, had been involved in a long-term effort to solicit sex from a juvenile female victim, through emails and direct contact, and had conspired with each other to do so.
Both men were jailed and eventually released on $750,000 each bond. Dr. Bourne left Mammoth Hospital voluntarily and resigned from his position on the Mammoth Unified School District. In late January, he committed suicide in the Mammoth area.
Walker pleaded guilty March 9 to five felony charges—out of a total of 21 charges levied against him by the Santa Barbara DA’s office—including four counts of “a lewd and lascivious act” with a child (Penal Code Section 288 (c) (1)) and one count of “illegal communication” with a minor with the intent to facilitate sexual activity (Penal Code 288.3).
The victim is the daughter of a friend of both the Walker and Bourne families, and was 14 years old when the alleged crimes began to occur. She lived in Santa Barbara at the time of the alleged crimes, but traveled frequently to Mammoth with her family. The crimes that the two men were charged with occurred in both Mammoth Lakes and Santa Barbara, according to Barron. Law enforcement authorities noted at the time of the two men’s arrests that they had recovered “thousands” of emails between the two men and the girl.
Barron said that Walker’s agreeing to plead guilty to some counts was an act that could spare the victim further exposure and humiliation. However, she said Thursday that the victim would have the chance to write or make a statement at Friday’s sentencing.
“The victim has a right to speak (or not speak) at the sentencing hearing, or she may submit a statement to be read to the court,” she said.
Walker’s plea agreement includes a condition that the maximum sentence he can receive is five years in state prison. It also includes, among others, conditions that Walker must register as a sex offender, that he cannot possess a firearm as a convicted felon, and that he has waived the right to an appeal. It also includes a prohibition against revealing the name and identity of the minor.
A civil case against Walker and the Bourne estate was filed March 14 by the girl and her family and is pending.
The complaint includes allegations of “sexual battery,” “serious emotional distress,” that the minor was the victim of two men “who made promises to take care of her long term without any intention of doing so,” that the minor was the victim of a “prolonged conspiracy between the two men,” among others.
Progress on the civil suit has been delayed, according to the victim’s attorney, Chris Kroes, because Walker’s attorney broke his leg.
“There has been no answer or demurrer from either defendant at this juncture,” he said Thursday. He said he hopes that there will be some responses “in the next few weeks.”