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Wednesday, March 20 , 2019, 4:45 am | Partly Cloudy 53º


Men Convicted of Raping Santa Barbara Woman on East Beach Sentenced to Life in Prison

Two men who were convicted of raping a Santa Barbara woman at knifepoint last year were each sentenced to life in prison on Thursday.

Co-defendants Juan Carlos Herrera-Romero and Gabino Andres Romero appeared in Santa Barbara Superior Court before Judge Rick Brown, who handed down the sentence.

Juan Carlos Herrera-Romero, 31, and Gabino Andres Romero, 28, who are cousins, each had a jury during the trial, in which both men were accused of sexually assaulting a homeless woman on East Beach in the early hours of July 16, 2014.

Juries convicted the men in September of this year, and Herrera-Romero faced a maximum sentence of 45 years to life in state prison, while Romero faced a maximum sentence of 36 years to life.

The immigration status was not brought up during the trials of the two men, but Noozhawk confirmed that both men are on immigration detainers and may have been in the country illegally at the time of the crimes.

On Thursday, Judge Brown handed down the maximum sentence for each of the men, citing the aggravated nature of the offenses which involved the sexual assault of the woman, who was 62-years-old at the time of the attack, while her 70-year-old partner was restrained nearby.

A jury convicted Herrera-Romero of four felony charges, including conspiracy to commit rape, rape in concert, forcible rape, and forcible oral copulation in concert, and also found that he personally used a knife in the commission of the sexual assault.

Another jury convicted Gabino Andres Romero of four felony counts as well, including rape in concert, forcible rape, forcible oral copulation in concert, and criminal threats against the sexual assault victim’s companion. He was also found to have used a knife during the commission of the sexual assault and criminal threats. 

A statement from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office said the use of a knife during the commission of a forcible sex crime made each defendant eligible for a life sentence under California’s One Strike Law. 

"Because these defendants chose exceptionally fragile victims, this case was extremely difficult to both investigate and prosecute" District Attorney Joyce Dudley said in the statement. 

"Were it not for the extraordinary efforts made by officers and detectives from the Santa Barbara Police Department and Senior Deputy District Attorney Mary Barron, these perpetrators would have gotten away with a vicious sexual and physical assault. Instead, this sentence will ensure that these dangerous men will never again be able to prey upon anyone."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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