An Orange County judge Monday sentenced a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy to one year in jail for abusing his girlfriend — including breaking her nose and setting her hair on fire — a penalty that prosecutors strongly objected to as overly lenient.
In addition to the jail term, Superior Court Judge Roger B. Robbins sentenced Alejandro Flores, 34, to five years of formal probation, community service and completion of a domestic violence program, according to a spokeswoman for the Orange County district attorney's office.
Flores had pleaded guilty to nine felony counts: three of domestic battery with corporal injury; two of assault likely to produce great bodily injury; and one count each of aggravated assault, making a criminal threat, dissuading a witness and false imprisonment by menace or violence.
Both the victim, who had a child with Flores, and prosecutors opposed the judge's decision to keep him out of prison and gave impassioned pleas before the judge in his Fullerton courtroom.
"We strenuously object to the sentence. We did not make any plea deal here," said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for the district attorney's office. "These are felony counts that deserve prison time."
Flores could have received more than 20 years in prison for the charges, prosecutors said.
The victim, who was not identified in court proceedings, told the judge it was difficult for her to "wrap my head around a one-year sentence for the incredibly violent charges he was facing." She warned that it will deter other victims coming forward.
"Knowing what it finally took for me to finally stand up for myself and my son, with a one-year sentence it is almost like I'm being victimized again … by the system I trusted to protect me and my son," she told the court.
"My fear of a light sentence like this is not only for me but for any other woman out there being victimized. It really sends a powerful message to victims: Don't bother telling, the courts will protect your abuser."
Attorneys for Flores could not be reached for comment Monday. He has been relieved of duty and is not being paid, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman said.
Robbins, 79, was elected to the municipal court bench in 1986 and became a Superior Court judge under the reorganization of the municipal court system. Before taking the bench, he worked as a Riverside County prosecutor for more than a decade.
Flores' abuse of the woman occurred over several months and left her with multiple injuries, culminating when he threatened her with a gun and set her hair on fire. The couple's son witnessed some of the abuse, she told the court.
The deputy lived with the victim and her child in Buena Park, and their relationship lasted four years, officials said.
Flores hit her in the face, breaking her nose in October 2014. She did not report the attack, according to prosecutors.
He attacked her again in June 2015 during an argument over the child's pacifier, prosecutors said. The deputy pushed the woman into a wall at their home, then struck her on the top of the head with his fist before grabbing her by the neck. She fell to the ground and he dragged her into the kitchen.
Next, Flores "forcibly held the victim over the stove," then turned on the gas burner. Her hair caught on fire, prosecutors said.
"He pushed me against the stove yelling, 'Is this what you want?' At that point, he turned on the gas burner, setting my hair on fire," the victim said in her statement filed in court and obtained by The Times.
She said she escaped his grasp and screamed as he chased her around the house. He later turned up the TV to prevent neighbors from hearing her yelling.
She begged to leave. But he told her: "The only way we are leaving here is through the coroner."
The deputy then went into the bedroom, retrieved a handgun and threatened her with it if she tried to leave. Hours later, he took her to the hospital but stood guard over her so she could not tell anyone what happened, she wrote.
The following day, she left the home with the child while Flores was at work. She told two relatives and went to the Buena Park police. Flores, an eight-year sheriff's deputy, was arrested June 30, 2015.
The victim told the court she remains emotionally scarred and has difficulty sleeping. Her 18-month-old son shows signs of behavioral and sensory problems and remains afraid of loud noises.
"Alejandro chose a career in law enforcement, to protect and serve. Apparently that doesn't cross over to his personal life," she said. "This sentence confirms his belief that it would always be his word against mine and nobody would believe me."