A Stanislaus County judge sentenced a teenager to 10 years in prison Tuesday for tricking a woman into opening her front door, then ransacking her Modesto house when he was 16.
Jesus Vasquez, now 19, rang Laura Diarte's doorbell at 6:30 a.m. on May 23, 2008, and told Diarte that her 12-year-old son was having trouble with some boys in the neighborhood. He was there to escort her son to the bus stop.
Once Diarte let him inside her house, Vasquez's three accomplices bound Diarte with tape while holding a gun and put her in the bathroom shower. Meanwhile, Vasquez and the other intruders could be heard beating Diarte's son, then wrapping him in tape, prosecutor Tom Brennan said.
"This is another example of a juvenile committing an adult-style crime and suffering the consequences," Brennan said after the hearing. "By engaging in the ultra-violent conduct he engaged in, he proved himself worthy of the maximum state prison sentence."
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Defense attorney John P. Carty objected to what he believed was excessive punishment for Vasquez.
"He's doing everything he can to rehabilitate himself, but the courts aren't giving him a chance," Carty said. "I don't think it's good for him or anyone else."
Vasquez pleaded no contest two counts of home-invasion robbery and a gun enhancement on Aug. 16, the day his jury trial was set to begin, Brennan said. There was no plea bargain made.
He and his cohorts made off with Diarte's Chevrolet Tahoe, jewelry, clothing and electronics, according to authorities.
Vasquez will be eligible for parole after serving 8½ years. His conviction counts as two strikes under California law, meaning he could face 25 years to life in prison if ever convicted of another felony.
In a probation report, Vasquez said two other defendants, ages 22 and 17, "used him" to commit the crime. He said he wanted to write a letter of apology to the Diarte family but was afraid of opening "old wounds."
"I've seen that I made a mistake and when I get out, I plan to never come back in here again," Vasquez said. "I know what I did was wrong. I plan to make better choices in the future."
Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2337. Follow her at twitter.com/modbeecourts.