63 years to life for child sex abuse

Relates to:
Date: 2007-07-10
Source: sfgate.com

63 years to life for child sex abuse

Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Henry K. Lee,
Chronicle Staff Writer

A former Berkeley firefighter was sentenced Monday to 63 years to life in prison for sexually abusing two young girls at his home in Nevada County in molestations that he videotaped.

Luis Ponce, 50, was convicted by a Nevada County Superior Court jury in May of 16 felony charges, including aggravated sexual assault of a child involving oral copulation, lewd or lascivious acts with a child and penetration with a foreign object.

During a hearing in Nevada City on Monday, Superior Court Judge Ersel Edwards said Ponce's videotaping helped secure his conviction, said prosecutor Charles O'Rourke.

O'Rourke had asked the judge to sentence Ponce to at least 100 years to life in prison. But O'Rourke and District Attorney Cliff Newell said they were satisfied with the sentence.

"Our basic drive was that he spend the rest of his life in prison, and I believe we have achieved that," Newell said.

Ponce's attorney, David Billingsley of Hayward, did not return calls for comment.

During the trial, jurors saw clips from videotapes taken by Ponce showing him molesting the two girls, who were 1 and 3 years old, prosecutors said.

"I can say the judge's comments in regard to Mr. Ponce doing us a favor by videotaping things were appropriate," O'Rourke said. "The videotapes show how horrible and terrifying child molestation can be, particularly if you're watching it happen to a 1- to 3-year-old."

Ponce was a paramedic supervisor who worked for the Berkeley Fire Department for 17 years until he resigned in 2006. He lived in Grass Valley with his wife and commuted to Berkeley.

The couple were foster parents, authorities said.

Ponce could still face a trial in Alameda County on 57 misdemeanor child pornography counts for material Berkeley police said they found in his locker at a fire station and on a computer disk he had used. An Oakland prosecutor had said he was withholding a decision until the sentencing in Nevada County.

E-mail Henry K. Lee at hlee@sfchronicle.com.

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