The somber atmosphere of Jonathan David Pereira’s sentencing hearing took a turn to the absurd when the defendant pleaded with the court to grant him the death penalty.
Pereira, who was found guilty on six counts relating to child molestation and possession of child pornography by a jury in March, was first determined by Judge Daniel B. Proud to not be eligible for probation. After declaring this, Judge Proud opened the floor to the counsel.
Dain Weiner, Pereira’s attorney, noted that Pereira was being judged over a single incident that took place over a few minutes in Pereira’s home. He believed that the sentence of three terms of 15 years-to-life should be served concurrently.
Prosecutor Lisette Suder said otherwise, noting that the defendant “doesn’t think he has done anything wrong.”
Suder read a statement prepared by the mother of one of the two boys who was molested, quoting that the “harm will never be erased” and that Pereira is a “truly sick child of God.”
Suder then cited an incident involving John Doe Two after the incident with Pereira took place. The boy was a student at Louisiana Schnell Elementary School in Placerville when the alleged murder of principal Sam LaCara took place. When the boy heard that someone named “John” was allegedly responsible, he “flipped out,” Suder said, thinking that Pereira had murdered his principal solely to get to him and kill him, too. The suspect was in fact John Harold Luebbers, who Suder noted is to stand trial starting April 19 just across the hall, but it scared the boy all the same.
In listening to jail conversations Pereira had after his conviction, Suder found Pereira to show a lack of remorse. He believed the trial to be unfair, that young people who are interested in “that kind of thing” should get together with adults who are also into “that kind of thing,” which would result in “a lot less crime,” Suder quoted Pereira. “It’s absolutely appalling,” Suder said.
She continued to quote Pereira’s conversations, noting that he said that there was “no conceptual difference” between a relationship with a young person and a “predator for sex.” He also “didn’t expect what happened to happen” in regards to the incident he was charged with, Suder said.
Weiner countered saying that the upper term was not appropriate due to Pereira’s lack of prior record and that no force was used. He noted that one boy continued to come to Pereira’s house for over a month more, and that he was not frightened, disputing the story of John Doe Two, that he did “nothing to instill fear.”
Suder ended her argument by telling the court that one of the detectives who had been a witness during trial said that he had never seen so much child pornography on a case, taking six months to go through. Suder said the “substantial” amount warranted a high term.
Proud then asked if Pereira, seated in his orange prison jumpsuit and in chains, had anything to say for himself, causing court proceedings to take a bizarre turn.
Pereira, on the verge of sobbing, said that he “understood the court’s situation” and that he “hurt many people.” He then begged Judge Proud for the death sentence, as being in jail that long would amount to nothing less than “torture.”
“I beg the court, take my life instead,” he said, now fully sobbing.
Judge Proud replied that it was not an option based on the charges against him, but Pereira was adamant.
“What’s the point?” he asked, also asking the court to make an exception for his case. He said he didn’t want to waste the taxpayers’ money and that he didn’t want the two boys to live in fear of the day he was released from custody.
The judge began going over all the factors of the sentencing. He noted that Pereira had said that the trial was unfair, that Suder had lied, that the court was biased and that Weiner’s counsel was ineffective. Judge Proud said that the counsel on both sides had been “professional, even in a difficult” trial such as this, saying they both did an “admirable job.”
As to Pereira, Judge Proud said that the defendant would “not accept responsibility” and that he “put it on someone else” each time, which also lead to concerns over Pereira’s remorse. He noted the defendant “craved interaction with children” and that Pereira felt the case “should be dismissed outright.”
“I’m not able to grant probation even if I was inclined, which I’m not,” the judge said. He then noted the boys were young and vulnerable, that Pereira had put planning into the incident, telling the boys not to tell anyone what happened and that they could hit him to “get back” at him. Judge Proud noted Pereira was in a position of trust with the parents of the children, but that Pereira had no prior record and acknowledged wrongdoing, yet still went to trial, as was his right. But, the judge said, this made the boys have to “go through the agony of this again.”
Judge Proud noted the crimes were independent of one another but close in time. He said that after showing the harmful material to the boys, one was allowed to leave and Pereira checked on him, which Judge Proud speculated was to prevent the second boy from seeing any wrong-doing.
The judge then delivered the sentence. Despite the defendant’s plea for the death penalty, he received 45 years-to-life in prison, plus an additional four years and four months. The terms would be consecutive, as per Suder’s recommendation. Pereira will receive credit for 853 days already served plus 127 days for good conduct. He will also receive a 15 percent credit, shortening his sentence. He will need to register as a sex offender, submit to an HIV/AIDS test, and submit a sample of his DNA for archiving. He was ordered to pay more than $13,000 in fines and restitution. The court was adjourned as Pereira was taken away.
After the hearing, Weiner said that it was a “Sad case all the way around.”
Suder said that the sentence is “hopefully providing closure for both families. The boys should be able to move forward, and enjoy doing what boys do.”
Neither had any comment on Pereira’s plea for the death penalty.