Anaheim man gets 15 years in MySpace assault on 12-year-old girl
An Anaheim construction worker received a term of 15 years to life Friday for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl he met online.
Matthew Castaneda, 36, testified at trial that in November 2009 he began communicating on MySpace with a person he thought to be a woman a little older than 18.
The prosecution didn’t contest that point. But the two met in person near South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa on Feb. 17, 2010. Castaneda took a bus with the girl to Anaheim, walked around with her in two parks then took her to his room at Zaby’s Motor Lodge.
During the week-long trial, Castaneda testified that the girl told him she was 16 and that she consented to have sex. If the jury had believed him, Castaneda would have faced a three- to eight-year sentence for a lewd act on a child younger than 14, said assistant public defender Lisa Kopelman.
“He admitted that he knew it was wrong to have sexual relations with a minor but that he never forced her to have sex with him. That was the only aspect of the case he was fighting — that it was forced,” Kopelman said.
The girl gave a sharply different account, saying she agreed to go to the motel room but just wanted “to hang out,” said Orange County Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Cynthia Herrera. “She told him how old she was.”
The girl left the motel and flagged down a civilian traffic officer for help getting home, which triggered questions and a police investigation. By that point, the girl’s family in Santa Ana had already reported her missing.
In May, a jury at the Santa Ana Central Justice Center convicted Castaneda of a lewd act on a child under 14 and aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14.
Judge John Conley could have imposed a harsher sentence. Castaneda would be eligible for parole after serving 85% of his 15-year minimum. If released, he would have to register as a sex offender.
-- Howard Blume