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Molester gets six years in no contest plea

A convicted child molester is going to prison -- but the victims' family definitely isn't celebrating.

That's one key perspective in the case of Joaquin Rogue Luna, who was sentenced to six years in prison Tuesday for molesting a 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl in 2005. Luna pleaded no contest to two counts of child molestation last year.

A 54-year-old woman who identified herself as the mother of the male victim said she's glad Luna will be identified as a registered sexual offender for the rest of this life.

She agreed with the sentence, but said her family is still traumatized because of the sexual abuse. The woman said she and the victims are both receiving counseling and being treated for depression. "We're not celebrating," she said. "What's the victory? We still have a long way to go."

Prosecutor David Sandhaus said the victim was abused on two occasions by Luna. Sandhaus said Luna sodomized the victim and forced him to perform oral sex. Luna was also convicted on a misdemeanor charge for inappropriately touching the victim's niece. The crimes happened at Luna's home, Sandhaus said.

Investigators also had Luna's DNA as evidence that he committed the crime, Sandhaus said. He said Luna ingratiated himself with the victim's family. Sandhaus said the victim also suffers from a bipolar mental illness, and Luna preyed on him.

The female victim in the case spoke tearfully in court on Tuesday, telling Merced Superior Court Judge Ronald Hansen that the abuse really happened, adding that it has affected her self-esteem.

Sandhaus reiterated on Tuesday that prosecutors made a plea deal with the defendant to spare the victims from having to testify during a trial and relive the abuse. "Testifying in trial against a molester is like your worst nightmare," Sandhaus said.

Arthur Collins, Luna's attorney, said his client still denies molesting the girl. Although Luna does acknowledge that a sexual act happened between him and the male victim, he denies ever forcing the teen, Collins said.

Collins also pointed out that 13 letters from friends and family members supporting Luna were presented to the judge.

Collins said his client entered no-contest pleas because he would have faced life in prison if the case had gone to trial and he were convicted.

Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsun-star.com.

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