SANTA ANA ( — An appeals panel has upheld the 30 years to life prison sentence for a then-16-year-old who sexually assaulted a 9-year-old boy with a toy light saber.

The three-justice panel of the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld Javier Enrique Perez’s conviction and sentence in February, but today the opinion was published, meaning it established legal precedence.

Attorneys for Perez argued that his sentence should be lessened because recent rulings have found it unconstitutional to send juvenile defendants to prison for life.

The appellate justices ruled that it was not a cruel punishment because Perez will be eligible for parole when he is 47.

“The offense was horrendous, particularly when we take into account the evidence of a broken tip on the light saber. (The victim) cried out to be released, and Perez laughed. Perez showed no remorse in the initial police interview and justified the attack on the 9-year-old by insisting the boy enjoyed it,” the appeals panel wrote.

The justices also noted Perez’s criminal history.

“There were two incidents of auto theft at age 13, and at age 14, he shot a 13-year-old victim with a BB gun,” the opinion said.

The victim’s mother dropped the boy off at a Santa Ana home about 5 p.m. on July 16, 2008, so he could be watched while she was at work, according to Orange County Deputy District Attorney Jana Hoffmaann.

Perez was at the home at the time, along with Oscar Antoniel Arreola, then 19 years old, a 12-year-old boy and an 8-year-old boy, Hoffmann said.

Perez pushed the 9-year-old over a kitchen table, held him down and put the toy light saber in the boy’s anus, Hoffmann said. He also made the 8-year-old put his hand in the boy’s anus, according to the prosecutor.

When the 9-year-old’s mother picked him up about 9 p.m., he told her what happened, Hoffmann said. The mother took her son to a doctor a few days later. He did not suffer any permanent physical injuries, according to Hoffmann.

Perez told the other boys to not tell anyone what happened, the prosecutor said.

Arreola pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to 180 days in jail and three years of probation.

Perez was convicted of felony sexual penetration with a foreign object, felony aggravated sexual assault of a child with a foreign object and two felony counts of forcible lewd acts on a child, according to Hoffmann.

The jury also found true sentencing enhancements for lewd acts on multiple children and substantial sexual conduct with a child, Hoffmann said.

(©2013 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Watch & Listen LIVE