Dental Assistant Gets 15 Years for Molestations

     SAN DIEGO (CN) — A San Diego Superior Court judge didn’t buy the story of a former dental assistant who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting 13 women under anesthesia and sentenced the 36-year-old to 15 years in prison Friday.
     Luis Ramos was arrested this year and booked at the San Diego Central Jail after a 17-year-old girl in February said she woke up at the Park Boulevard Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery center to find Ramos touching her.
     Authorities seized security camera footage from the oral surgery center and pored over more than 500 hours of surveillance tape, Deputy District Attorney Martin Doyle told Courthouse News after Friday’s sentencing hearing.
     While Ramos was charged with assaulting 13 victims, Doyle said authorities saw only a month’s worth of surveillance footage, as the camera erased and taped over old footage.
     He said there may be many more victims, which was echoed by another attorney, who said 18 victims have come forward when she read a victim impact statement on behalf of women who Ramos molested.
     Ramos pleaded guilty in May to 13 charges.
     On Friday, San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael Smyth heard from some of the victims and their attorneys before considering Ramos’ request for probation.
     Only one victim directly addressed the court, reading a lengthy statement in which she told the judge about her assault, which was more graphic than some of the others.
     She said Ramos assaulted her while she was starting to come out of the anesthesia and then physically moved her out of the view of the surveillance camera before continuing the assault.
     “There are mysteries I have to live with for the rest of my life. I’m disgusted to be sitting in the same room with such a perverted, distorted person,” the victim said through tears.
     Since the assault, she said, she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and has had trouble concentrating at class and at work.
     Newly married, she said she couldn’t even enjoy her wedding day without receiving a call about the case, and that her family and new husband have also suffered because of Ramos’ actions.
     “I hope and pray you suffer for what you put us through. Knowing my tax money keeps you breathing makes me sick,” she told Ramos.
     Deputy public defender Mignon Hilts blamed Ramos’ sexual misconduct on his addiction to alcohol and methamphetamine, and said “a person is more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.”
     Hilts said Ramos led a law-abiding life and served in the military before his addiction — which she referred to as the “root cause” — caused him to do things he wouldn’t normally do.
     While Hilts said Ramos has taken responsibility and shown remorse and embarrassment for his actions, she asked the judge to sentence Ramos to one year in custody and probation because he recently got married and started a family.
     Ramos told the packed courtroom he was “deeply sorry and ashamed” and blamed drugs and alcohol for “clouding my decisions.” He said he prays for “his victims” and asked “for the Lord to protect and bless them.”
     Before handing down the sentence, Judge Smyth noted Ramos had no prior criminal record and that a lengthy prison sentence would hurt his family. But he said deciding to issue the maximum sentence of 15 years “wasn’t even a close call.”
     Smyth noted most, if not all, of the victims were in or seeking counseling and many of them no longer trust health care professionals.
     He called Ramos’ addiction claims “dubious” and called him out for getting married and starting a family when he knew he’d likely receive a lengthy prison sentence.
     “I think that by working his way into this family knowing a lengthy prison sentence was very likely was extraordinarily selfish and likely added four more victims,” the judge said.
     Smyth also said Ramos stopped molesting the unconscious women only after he was caught.
     Ramos took steps to avoid getting caught, Smyth said, including asking the office manager of the dental center to delete footage from surveillance tapes when he “knew the gig was up.”
     Many victims told their family members they thought they’d been touched by Ramos, but their concerns were brushed off as dreams or illusions since they were under anesthesia. But when authorities showed the victims footage of Ramos touching them, their nightmare was confirmed, Smyth said.
     Ramos will have to register as a lifetime sex offender. A restitution hearing will be held later.

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