Victim Fails to Lessen Boyfriend's Sentence

Despite the victim's protests that the altercation was her fault, a Ventura man who broke his girlfriend's nose was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison under the three-strikes law.

Pete Lara Jr., 35, qualified for the three-strikes sentence because of 1981 convictions for rape and attempted rape during a six-week crime spree in the county. After his release from prison he was convicted twice of exposing himself to women and teen-age girls, behavior that Superior Court Judge Allan L. Steele said is "very indicative of the defendant and his attitude toward women."

Lara's third felony conviction came when a jury found him guilty of battery for breaking his girlfriend's nose Sept. 19. At trial, the girlfriend, 27-year-old Michelle Mahoney, testified for the defense and said the injury was accidental.

Mahoney spoke again on Lara's behalf at the sentencing, saying she feels responsible for her role in the fight.

"What was a guy supposed to do when a girl is jumping on his back when he's trying to leave?" she said. "I take more than half the blame for this."

Deputy Public Defender Brian Boles asked Steele to strike the prior convictions so Lara would be eligible for a lighter sentence. A year ago, before there was a three-strikes law, the maximum sentence for the battery conviction would have been five years, Boles said.

Steele ruled he had no authority to strike the prior convictions, and he said the rape and attempted rape constituted "every woman's nightmare" because the victims were awakened in their homes and attacked.

The judge called the battery conviction a "close case," but added that the jury's guilty verdict was justified.

Steele refused to allow the 1981 rape victim to address the court prior to sentencing.

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