A Benton County judge told a convicted rapist Friday morning that he was very concerned the Richland man didn't seem remorseful for sexually assaulting a woman at Claybell Park.
John Magana, 30, was in front of Superior Court Judge Cameron Mitchell to be sentenced for first-degree rape for the attack Dec. 26, 2010.
"Mr. Magana, it does not appear to this court that you, like I said, accepted or really understand the impact of your actions on this individual," Mitchell said. "I understand from your comments that you deny the sexual assault. ... But there's nothing to suggest this was not a sexual assault. In fact, it was a very violent sexual assault."
Magana pleaded guilty last month in the middle of his trial, and attorneys on both sides agreed to recommend a minimum sentence of 121/2 years in prison.
However, Magana could spend the rest of his life in prison, because the state Indeterminate Sentence Review Board ultimately will decide if he should be released after he completes the minimum sentence.
His guilty plea came a day after the 24-year-old victim gave emotional testimony in court about how she feared for her life when Magana beat her and sexually assaulted her.
The victim's family made written statements to the judge, but her mother also spoke briefly in court Friday.
"For the past 472 days, this has been a part of our thoughts. After today, we will choose not to think about this again," she said. "We can move on and know he is behind bars and will never hurt another person again, like my daughter."
The victim was not in court.
Magana asked Mitchell to follow the agreed recommendation and said, "I would just like to say that I truly am sorry."
The woman, who is not named under a Herald policy not to identify victims of sexual assault, said she met Magana, an acquaintance, in a restaurant parking lot because she wanted him to pay back $200 she had given him for some prescription pain medication.
She got into his car and he drove to Claybell Park, where he used some cocaine, asked her to expose herself and then refused to drive her back to her car.
When she got out of the car and started walking away, he dragged her into the bushes, started undressing her and punching her while sexually assaulting her.
A passer-by heard her screams and called 911, then returned to help her. Magana ran to his car and was arrested by police after he crashed while trying to drive away.
Mitchell credited the "courage of the young man" who was in the area at the right time and said if not for him, "we may be looking at an entirely different charge."
Magana was interviewed as part of the state Department of Corrections' presentence investigation, and he "adamantly denied" sexually assaulting the woman, according to the report filed in court. Magana said the victim punched him first, which enraged him and he began "wailing" on her, documents said.
He reportedly blamed his actions on the cocaine, marijuana and alcohol he consumed.
Deputy Prosecutor Terry Bloor said he was "disappointed" in Magana's remarks in the reports, but acknowledged it was a major step when Magana pleaded guilty, knowing he faced a life sentence.
"I'm disappointed he's not taking more responsibility for his actions," Bloor said, but agreed to stick to his recommendation of 121/2 years.
Bloor also wanted to note how difficult it is for victims in sexual assault cases to go through numerous interviews and have to discuss personal details in a public courtroom.
Defense attorney Sal Mendoza Jr. said his client decided to plead guilty and told him "in no uncertain terms how deeply sorry he is for that evening."
Mendoza also said Magana knows that drugs or alcohol have been a factor in the incidents where he's had to go to court.
"I've discussed that with John. It's important that hopefully, when he gets out, that he has the tools at that point to remove himself from that situation," Mendoza said. "It's his choices that have gotten him in this position. He has told me he recognizes that."
Magana pleaded guilty March 2 to a fourth-degree assault and third-degree theft charge that stemmed from an Aug. 12, 2010, incident in which he threw an acquaintance on the bed after telling her he'd pay to kiss her, the presentence investigation report said.
He eventually apologized for his actions, saying he was drunk, but he took her identification, money and phone from her.
Judge Mitchell said the victim's family also made statements to suggest there may be other people who were sexually assaulted by Magana, and said he found it "very concerning" that the rape didn't appear to be his only assault.
"This may be part of a pattern of behavior for you Mr. Magana," Mitchell said. "The court is very concerned about you being placed back in the community."
He acknowledged that he thought the most appropriate minimum sentence was the top of the range -- 15 years and four months -- but he agreed to follow the recommendation negotiated by attorneys.
If released, Magana would have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. He also was ordered to have no contact with the victim or her family for the rest of his life.
After signing the judgment and sentence and as Magana was being fingerprinted, Mitchell thanked the victim's mother for her statements and her time being in court through the pretrial hearings and trial.
"I know no sentence the court is going to impose will remove the pain your daughter and your family have gone through," Mitchell said. "I just hope you're able to put this behind you with each other's support and move forward."