The first defendant to be charged in Orange County under a human trafficking law approved by California voters in November 2012 was sentenced today to 17 years to life in prison.
Chuncey Tarae Garcia, who was convicted March 7 of human trafficking and pimping a minor younger than 16, received the maximum available punishment from Orange County Superior Court Judge Michael Cassidy.
"The new sentencing law gave us a strong tool to combat a very sadistic underworld," Deputy District Attorney Daniel Varon said after the hearing.
If not for voter approval of Proposition 35, Garcia likely would have faced about eight years in prison, the prosecutor said said.
The human trafficking netted Garcia 15 years to life, but Cassidy tacked on two years because of sentencing enhancements for the defendant's prior convictions for possession for sale of cocaine in 2007 and transportation of cocaine in 2009.
Jurors deadlocked 11-1 in favor of convicting Garcia on a rape charge, but the prosecution decided against pursuing that count, which was formally dismissed at sentencing.
Co-defendant Cierra Melissa Robinson, 28, was the first defendant to be convicted in Orange County for human trafficking of a minor under terms of Proposition 35. She was sentenced to five years in prison.
Robinson, who worked as a prostitute for Garcia, recruited other women for the pimp, according to prosecutors, who said Robinson was Garcia's highest- ranked prostitute in charge of the others.
The victim was a 14-year-old girl who ran away from home in another state and was befriended by Robinson, authorities said.
Garcia, 33, forced the girl into working for him as a prostitute and brought her and a third woman to Orange County. The teen was put to work in Buena Park and Garcia allegedly raped her on her first day on the job as a prostitute, according to the prosecution.
Robinson's job was to teach the girl the rules of prostitution, authorities said.
On March 1 of last year, the defendants, another woman and the girl were driving in Garden Grove when they were pulled over for a broken headlight. The traffic stop led to an investigation that landed Robinson and Garcia in court on the human trafficking charges.
--City News Service