A former Newport Beach youth recreation leader was sentenced Friday to life in prison for sucking the toes of 20 boys under his supervision.
Trenton Michael Veches, 32, will be eligible for parole in 15 years.
"Your conduct has had a serious effect on a number of families," Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard F. Toohey told Veches. "There are scars. They may not be as deep as some of the scars I do see, but it is clear you do pose a threat to children in the community."
Clutching a white handkerchief in his cuffed hands, Veches sobbed as he was led from the Santa Ana courtroom.
The judge sentenced Veches to 20 life sentences, to be served concurrently. State law requires a life sentence for each count of child molestation.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Sheila Hanson had asked the judge to sentence Veches to consecutive life terms, which would have effectively kept him in prison for the rest of his life.
"Sexual attraction to children is something that doesn't just go away," Hanson said. "He should be kept from the public as long as possible."
Newport Beach police arrested Veches in April 2002, after a co-worker reported seeing him suck a child's toes at a recreation center.
Veches, who admitted to similar encounters with 20 children ranging in age from 6 to 10, was convicted in May of 22 felony counts of lewd conduct.
He also was convicted of three misdemeanor counts of assaulting children, for touching their buttocks, and one charge of possessing child pornography. Each carried a six-month sentence, to be served at the same time as the life terms.
Veches' lawyer, John Patrick Dolan, said his client should have received probation, given his previously clean record and good employment history.
Veches' defense throughout his trial was that the toe-sucking was not intended to be sexual.
"While what he did was a little weird and quirky, it was never sexual," Dolan said, adding that his client poses no danger to children. "Frankly, it's not good he put the toes of children in his mouth. But it's not the same as genital contact. I'm not making light of it, but it is on the low end of the serious scale."
The possibility that Veches could be paroled disgusted one victim's mother.
Identified only as Jane during the hearing, the woman said Veches' actions traumatized her son, who was 6 when he attended a Newport Beach sports camp. Evidence presented during the trial included photographs of the boy Veches took with a zoom lens, peering up his swim trunks.