By Shady Gonzales
MODESTO, CA – Ernesto Montellano was sentenced here in Stanislaus County Superior Court this week after previously being found guilty of three counts of sexual crimes in an assault against a 16-year-old girl in 2019.
Deputy District Attorney Samuel Lezadas presented a victim impact statement authored by the victim in the case that noted the impact that Montellano’s actions have had on her everyday life.
“I have very severe anxiety and my family used to be able to help me through it. But now I even have severe anxiety at family gatherings and functions that nobody can help me with except my father and my older sister, because this incident happened at a family function where I thought I would be safe,” said the victim.
The victim added, “My PTSD and anxiety is so severe that someone can put their arms up to hug me and my brain gets tricked into thinking they are going to harm me. Now I am overly defensive and it is very hard for me to even make a friend” and “I fear that [this incident’s] effects will continue to impact me very negatively for a very long time, but the memory of this will be a living nightmare for the rest of my life.”
The victim impact statement concluded with a plea from the victim to sentence Montellano to no less than 20 years, without chance of parole for 15 years, and a lifetime registry as a sex offender.
The victim upheld her request by arguing that it would efficiently allow Montellano to “never forget the harm he’s bestowed upon [the victim] and others.”
After being asked if the defense would like to present anything else for consideration, defense attorney Cuong Nguyen clarified for the court that Montellano is statutorily ineligible for probation under California Penal Code section 1203.065.
The Penal Code states that probation cannot be granted to anyone that assaults another person with the intent to commit a specified sexual offense, except in unusual cases, said Nguyen, who added he hoped he was wrong about this and asked for another remedy for probation before requesting the lightest sentencing possible for Montellano.
Nguyen argued that Montellano should receive the lightest sentence because he does not have a significant criminal history and no violent history, he is the father of two young boys, is married to his high school sweetheart, takes care of his elderly father who has physical limitations, and coaches young children in his son’s community.
Nguyen then called on roughly 10 family members and friends of Montellano, who had been watching the sentencing, to stand up in order to be acknowledged and recognized by the court.
Defense counsel presented these supporters of Montellano as advocates for Montellano’s ability to rehabilitate and re-enter society upon his release. Three people from this group of supporters were given the opportunity to speak on behalf of Montellano’s character.
Motellano’s brother insisted that Montellano helped shape him into the person he is today despite their rough backgrounds, and is the backbone of their family.
A friend who works with the accused also stood and supported Montellano’s character, clarifying he is a trustworthy and valuable source for their business.
Judge Shawn Bessey began to read Montellano’s sentencing, starting with denying any possibility of probation. Judge Bessey clarified that even if Montellano qualified for probation, he would have denied it because of the “nature of the case and victimization of the victim.”
In Montellano’s first charge, according to Penal Code section 289(e), he could be sentenced to either three, six, or eight years for committing an act of sexual penetration while the victim had been prevented from resisting by any intoxicating, anesthetic, or controlled substance.
Judge Bessey clarified that his decision was made taking into consideration both Montellano’s lack of criminal history and the victim’s particular vulnerability due to her state and age.
Judge Bessey also acknowledged the court’s concern regarding Montellano’s aid in intoxicating the victim through various witness testimonies that indicated Montellano provided the underage victim with alcohol, despite the prosecutor not indicating this as a point in their argument.
Judge Bessey said Montellano took action to increase the vulnerability of the victim and that he had possibly intended and planned to assault the victim.
Judge Bessey finally announced the sentencing following statements about how difficult it is to reconcile the statements of the supporters of Montellano today compared to what was heard in trial.
Judge Bessey chose the middle term of six years on the Count 1 charge. Members of Montellano’s family and friends hastily exited the courtroom, appearing to be in a distressed state.
For Count 2, Montellano was once again sentenced to the middle term of two years. For Count 3, Montellano was sentenced to 180 days, but this was to be concurrent with the sentencing for the first two counts.
Once finished with serving time for his crimes, Montellano will be on a parole period for three years. Montellano will also be required to register as a lifetime sex offender.