By TERRY VAU DELL-Staff Writer
Posted: 02/02/2010 12:32:15 AM PST
OROVILLE Calling it a “troubling case” for everyone involved, a judge Monday ordered a Chico businessman to undergo a 90-day diagnostic evaluation at a state prison facility before being sentenced for burglarizing a student residence and sexually assaulting a young woman.
Jeremy Hoptowit, 38, who at one time was facing a potential life sentence, could get up to six years in prison on the charge of first-degree burglary with intent to commit digital penetration to which he earlier pleaded guilty.
In urging that he be granted probation with some jail time, Hoptowit’s lawyer, Cristina Arguedas, contended the attack was an “aberrant” incident in the life of an otherwise well-respected family man, fueled by a combination of alcohol and prescription medication.
But deputy district attorney Kelly Maloy argued the defense doctors had relied on “self-serving” statements provided by the defendant himself in assessing his state of his sobriety.
During Monday’s sentencing hearing, the victim, her parents and several friends, urged the judge to impose the maximum prison sentence.
Reading from a prepared statement, the slender blonde victim recounted coming up from the Bay Area to Chico to attend the 21st birthday of a close friend on March 9, 2008.
She was alone text-messaging on her cell phone in the upstairs bedroom of the house at West Third and Hazel streets that her friend shared with eight other college-age women, when an “old man” she didn’t know came into the room, asking for her friend by name.
She said he initially heeded her request to leave, but ran back up the stairs, pushed her onto the bed and groped her with his fingers under her dress.
“I think he stopped because he knew I wasn’t going to quit fighting,” she said, recalling how she started screaming and chased the intruder down into the street, where he was apprehended by Chico police.
“This was a thought-out sexual assault … He traumatized me and took away my sense of safety,” the victim told the court.
Her mother and father, a 17-year veteran police officer, said they were just grateful for their daughter’s “fighting spirit” in preventing more devastating results.
Three other young college students, who were residing at the house where the attack occurred, told the judge the incident has also left them shaken and afraid to be alone.
Saying she was not attempting to minimize what the victim and her friends went through, Hoptowit’s lawyer asked the judge to find unusual circumstances that would allow the Chico father of three to be granted probation, with up to one year in jail.
Arguedas contended the dark intruder characterized by the victim and her friends was in stark contrast to the “quiet, respectful and helpful family man and neighbor” described in many letters of support for Hoptowit.
The letters, she said, cited his involvement as a coach and parent volunteer at Notre Dame School and acumen in running a successful computer software company.
According to Hoptowit’s attorney, he had been drinking at a poker game with friends just before the assault.
Defense doctors said the defendant was taking prescription medication, had lost about 20 pounds, and was suffering from depression at the time of the crime, according to Arguedas.
A local psychologist retained by the defense to examine Hoptowit, found this to be an isolated incident and that the defendant posed a very low risk of re-offending.
“What happened at 1:50 a.m. on March 9, 2008, was three minutes out of the life of a 38-year-old man, unlike any other three minutes of his life,” the defense attorney asserted.
Judge Raymond Giordano, a retired magistrate from Sonoma County assigned to the case, ruled that a “just disposition” required Hoptowit to be evaluated by prison authorities and for them to file a report with the court within 90 days before sentence is pronounced.