The California Court of Appeal in Santa Ana Thursday upheld the 30 years to life prison sentence given to a Riverside man who was 16 when he used an 8-year-old boy's hand to ram a toy lightsaber up a 9-year-old boy's butt.
Javier Enrique Perez had tried to rule the sentence was unconstitutional because of recent rulings regarding juveniles imprisoned for life while his attorneys tried to argue and cruel and unusual punishment grounds. But justices found neither applied because Perez can seek parole at 47.
A jury in May 2011 found Perez, who was tried as an adult at 16, guilty of one felony count of sexual penetration by foreign object by force, one felony count of aggravated sexual assault of a child, and two felony counts of forcible lewd acts on a child under 14 with sentencing enhancements for lewd acts on multiple children and substantial sexual conduct with a child. He received his sentence the following September.
Perez was hanging out with several children at a Santa Ana home the evening of July 16, 2008, when the 9-year-old boy was dropped off by his mother on her way to work. While other boys watched, Perez pushed the 9-year-old over the kitchen table, held the boy down and forced an 8-year-old boy to anally penetrate the 9-year-old with his hand. The 16-year-old then switched over to the Star Wars-style lightsaber toy as the boy screamed and writhed in pain. Both boys testified during trial that the boy whose hand was taken over by the teen yelled, "Stop! You're hurting him!"
The tip of the lightsaber broke off, but the boy did not suffer permanent injuries.
Perez had told all the youths present not to say anything to adults about what had happened.
A panel of three Fourth District Court of Appeal justices upheld Perez's conviction and sentence in February, but established legal precedence was made by their ruling being published Thursday. They disagreed the Perez case is among those that applied when appellate justices recently ruled that juveniles cannot be sentenced to de facto life without the possibility of parole.
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"The present case certainly is not among those 'exquisitely rare' cases which merit reversal on traditional disproportionately review," the justices wrote in the opinion. "The offense was horrendous, particularly when we take into account the evidence of a broken tip on the lightsaber. (The victim) cried out to be released, and Perez laughed. Perez showed no remorse in the initial police interview and justified the attack on the 9-year-old by insisting the boy enjoyed it."
It also was not Perez's first brush with the law, the justices note in their opinion.
"There were two incidents of auto theft at age 13, and at age 14, he shot a 13-year-old victim with a BB gun,'' the justices wrote.