RIVERSIDE (CBSLA) — A 27-year-old Riverside Unified School District teacher’s aide who sexually abused multiple children over several years was sentenced Friday to 20 years to life in state prison.
Last month, Fernando Figueroa plead guilty to three counts of lewd acts on a child under the age of 14, with some victims as young as 9-years-old, and in exchange the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office dropped 22 related charges.
During the sentencing, one of the victims — with her mother at her side — detailed the trauma she endured at the hands of Figueroa.
“Mr. Fernando sat next to me in the computer lab and started rubbing my thigh,” the girl, identified as C.S., said. “He rubbed all the way up between my legs. Another time, he made me sit on his lap, and he rubbed my stomach. I was bullied because of having to sit on his lap.
“Now I have a hard time trusting men. I don’t like teachers in general. This has affected my life, daily. I have struggled with depression and contemplated suicide. But what happened doesn’t define me. I hope this pervert psycho will feel the same physical discomfort I felt after he is in prison.”
Other victims submitted letters to the court that were read aloud by Deputy District Attorney Nicole Furtado.
“I felt my mom would be ashamed of me,” Furtado read from one letter. “I felt like killing myself after the abuse. When I looked in the mirror, I felt dirty and disgusting.”
In another letter, a victim wrote that she didn’t tell people because she thought they would think she was lying.
Figueroa was indicted in 2017 on 25 sexual assault-related counts connected to 11 female victims in second through fifth grades between 2014 and 2017. According to the plaintiffs, the assaults began with fondling and, in at least one instance, escalated to forced digital penetration on the Liberty Elementary School campus.
Figueroa will have to serve at least 18 years before being considered for parole.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)