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Man Gets Life Without Parole for Sexual Assault, Torture : Crime: Judge calls offense ‘one of the most horrible I have ever seen.’ Defendant claimed drug-induced psychosis from ingesting cocaine.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Calling the crime “one of the most horrible . . . I have ever seen,” a judge sentenced a transient to life in prison Thursday for sexually assaulting a woman and torturing her with electric shocks.

Van Nuys Superior Court Judge Michael J. Farrell sentenced James Thomas Hernandez to life in prison without the possibility of parole after hearing the victim plead to have her assailant locked up forever.

“All I ask is that I will never have to be in fear of James Hernandez again,” she said.

After Hernandez, 31, was led off by bailiffs, Farrell came down from the bench to shake the woman’s hand.

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“It was hard just listening,” the judge said, referring to the 25-year-old woman’s testimony about her ordeal.

A jury last month convicted Hernandez of torture, mayhem and kidnaping for ransom.

Blaming cocaine for the three-hour attack, Hernandez admitted during his trial that he committed most of the crimes, but said he could not remember the most heinous acts against the woman.

“We all know it was cocaine that destroyed (the victim) and my client,” defense attorney Craig Robinson said.

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“I don’t think my client should be in a worse position than if he had killed her,” Robinson said, referring to the fact that murder charges generally allow a convicted person to be paroled.

In asking for the maximum sentence, Deputy Dist. Atty. Peter S. Berman ridiculed Hernandez’s defense of “drug-induced psychosis,” citing the planning of the crime and the “savage attack and psychological brutality.” His flight from the North Hollywood warehouse where the crime occurred shows “that he understood completely . . . the nature and consequences of the acts,” Berman said.

In addition to the prison term of life without parole, Farrell added a second life term and tacked another 43 years onto the sentence.

“His first parole officer will be Satan,” Berman said outside the courtroom.

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The March 27 incident left the woman with permanent neurological damage resulting from an electronic device that was clamped to her breasts.

During the attack in a building on Sherman Way, the woman was hit on the head with a baseball bat, bound with rope and duct tape around her head, and repeatedly sexually assaulted, she testified.


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