Support for LAist comes from
Made of L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.


Prosecutors Will Appeal Judge's Oddly Light Sentence For Child Rapist

Support your source for local news!
The local news you read here every day is crafted for you, but right now, we need your help to keep it going. In these uncertain times, your support is even more important. Today, put a dollar value on the trustworthy reporting you rely on all year long. We can't hold those in power accountable and uplift voices from the community without your partnership. Thank you.

Orange County prosecutors will seek to appeal the short sentence given to a convicted child rapist by a lenient judge who said he didn't feel as though the man intended to hurt the victim.Orange County Superior Court Judge M. Marc Kelly sure made a lot of people angry last week Friday when he clipped 15 years off the sentence of Kevin Jonas Rojano-Nieto, a 20-year-old man who raped a three-year-old female relative when she wandered into the garage where he was playing video games. An angry Facebook page (or two) and an online petition to recall him have been circulating since the story broke a few days ago. The petition had over 2,000 signatures when we reported on it yesterday; now it has over 20,000. According to Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelly, to actually repeal Judge Kelly would require a petition containing almost 90,000 signatures collected within 160 days from registered Orange County voters, CBS LA reports.

Meanwhile, Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas says he "vehemently" disagrees with Kelly's ruling and plans to appeal the decision, City News Service reports. "We still have to wait of the transcripts [of Friday's sentencing hearing], but everything about the case indicates it's clearly an illegal sentence and one that is appealable."

The minimum sentence for such a crime is typically 25 years, but Judge Kelly weirdly thought it would be cruel and unusual punishment for Rojano to serve the whole thing. Rojano's lawyer, Erfan Puthawala, said that to lock him up for 25 years "would be an action so far afield from the bounds of justice that to do so would shock the conscience. Society will not be served if Kevin is incarcerated for the next 25 years," the OC Register reports.

Let's be clear here: Rojano was found guilty of sodomizing a three-year-old girl who happened to wander into the garage where Rojano was playing video games. When the girl's mother came looking for her in the locked garage, Rojano held his hand over the child's mouth to prevent her from calling out. After the mother went to check a neighbor's place instead, he had the girl fondle him. He later unlocked the door and when the girl's mother returned, she took her child inside. His crime was discovered when the girl told her mother she was in pain and her mother discovered tearing.

Support for LAist comes from

However, Kelly had a few reasons for his strange leniency. He noted that Rojano had his own troubled childhood and history of abuse. He also said that Rojano didn't go out looking for a victim, she just showed up. He said that Rojano didn't "consciously intend to harm (the vicim) when he sexually assaulted her." He also sided with Puthawala about another odd thing. Kelly said:

"In an instant, he (the defendant) reacted to a sexual urge and stopped almost immediately after he put his penis in (the victim's) anus. Within seconds of commencing his offense, he realized the wrongfulness of his act and stopped without ejaculating. Although serious and despicable, this does not compare to a situation where a pedophilic child predator preys on an innocent child. There was no violence or callous disregard for (the victim's) well being."

ABC7's Greg Lee tweeted this apparent quote from Rojano's defense today:

Kelly also said that the victim now seemed to be a "happy, healthy child" who would likely go on to have a "normal life." That may be true, but many are confounded as to how a judge can stand up and say that forcibly inserting oneself into another human's body isn't a violent act that shows lots of callous disregard for someone's well being.

This wasn't the first time Kelly went easy on a sex offender either. He gave ex-CHP officer Stephen Deck, who was caught in a sting trying to rendezvous with a fictitious 13-year-old, a much lighter sentence than prosecutors were advocating. Perverted-Justice, the organization behind the sting, called Stephen Deck the worst kind of predator based on his chat logs with the fake girl, which can be read here.

Most Read