Son of ex-CHP assistant chief sentenced to 35 years to life for rape

02/18/2014 8:53 PM

02/18/2014 10:57 PM

Spencer Scarber, son of a former assistant chief of the California Highway Patrol, was sentenced Tuesday to 35 years to life in state prison for raping a housekeeper at knife point in 2011 at a Squaw Valley home.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Edward Sarkisian’s sentence followed a probation report recommendation, despite prosecutor Leanne LeMon’s calls for a longer term. The judge could have sentenced Scarber to more than 80 years if he treated the incident as two separate sex crimes and sentenced him to the maximum for burglary and robbery connected to the case.

Scarber, 21, was sentenced for using a knife in the rape, as well as burglary and robbery while using a knife.

Tuesday’s sentencing was the latest chapter in one of Fresno County’s more highly publicized cases of recent years, in which the defendant escaped to Mexico during the trial – allegedly aided by family members – before being caught and returned to Fresno. It also raised questions about some of Fresno County’s highest-ranking law enforcement officials.

As the judge imposed his sentence, Scarber, his hair trimmed to a crew cut, sat expressionless in a red jumpsuit. He said nothing other than a brief “yes, sir” and “no, sir” when questioned by the judge.

Sarkisian said Scarber’s behavior during the trial was “the polar opposite of taking that first step toward rehabilitation. Instead, he has throughout this case intentionally misled those near and dear to him and caused them much angst, heartbreak and tribulation.”

After the hearing, his parents said they intend to appeal his conviction.

His lawyer, Charles Magill, contends that Sheriff Margaret Mims hid a crucial piece of evidence from Antonio Alvarez, Scarber’s previous lawyer. That evidence showed the victim did not want to press charges in the case.

Mims was present for Tuesday’s hearing, flanked by more than a dozen sheriff’s deputies and detectives in the audience.

In his final argument before sentencing, Magill questioned why the sheriff would show up for a rape case sentencing. He said the case smacks of political rancor.

“I’ve yet to see a sheriff sitting in on a rape case, but she’s here,” he said.

Magill also discussed the conflict of interest for District Attorney Elizabeth Egan, who had a relationship with Spencer Scarber’s father, Kyle Scarber, nearly 15 years ago.

The case was prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s office after Egan declared a conflict.

A CHP internal affairs memo about Kyle Scarber said the victim indicated she would recant her testimony because she was being intimidated by the Scarbers, Magill said. The memo said Mims had called CHP Chief Jim Abrames to inform him that the victim “was going to withdraw charges” against Spencer Scarber.

Mims later signed a declaration saying the information about the woman wanting to drop charges was not true.

Outside the courtroom Tuesday, Gail Scarber, Spencer Scarber’s mother, rejected the claim that her family intimidated the victim.

Magill, who contended that the sex act was consensual, had petitioned for a new trial, which Sarkisian rejected. Spencer Scarber contends he didn’t get a fair trial and that friends of the housekeeper beat a confession out of him. But Sarkisian ruled in December that Scarber received a fair trial and voluntarily confessed to sheriff’s detectives.

Prosecutor LeMon said the victim suffers from nightmares because of the rape. She was 35 at the time.

“She couldn’t touch a knife for months” after having a knife held to her neck during the assault, LeMon said.

She also said that Spencer Scarber never showed remorse or took responsibility for his crime. When faced with testifying, he ran, LeMon said.

“He blamed his previous attorney, the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office,” she said. “He never took responsibility for his actions.”

Spencer Scarber’s case was flying under the radar until December 2012, when he vanished from his Squaw Valley home on the day he was to testify in his own defense. On Dec. 14, 2012, a jury deliberated two hours before convicting him in absentia of five felony charges of rape, burglary and robbery. Two months after the verdict, Mexican authorities captured him in Acapulco.

While in Mexico, he dyed his hair, grew a goatee, used fake identification and disguised himself in hopes he would not be found.

The victim said that while he was on the lam, she feared he would show up at her house, LeMon said.

The crime made her “angry, embarrassed, humiliated,” LeMon said. “She felt dirty.”

His capture led to the arrest of his parents and sister, Crystal Reynoso, on charges of aiding his escape. Their trials are pending.

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