Moments after a Brentwood man nearly had his plea deal revoked Thursday for suggesting his victim wanted to be raped, he was unable to suppress a smile as he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Jose Cornejo was sentenced a week shy of his 18th birthday for kidnapping and raping a 16-year-old girl May 29 on the grounds of the Brentwood Country Club with two other men.
He pleaded guilty last month to 21 charges, including first-degree rape, criminal sexual act, kidnapping and several counts of robbery.
But Suffolk County Court Judge Barbara Kahn in Riverhead considered pulling the deal after Cornejo told a pre-sentence investigator the girl “wanted this to occur.”
During questioning Thursday by his attorney, Greg Kalmar of Huntington, Cornejo reaffirmed his guilt and stood by his admissions, speaking through an interpreter.
Soon afterward — after apologizing to everyone he’s hurt — a smile spread across his face.
“I also want to apologize to the world, for everything that is happening to the world,” he said.
Kahn told Cornejo his crime was “vile and vicious,” and imposed the sentence. She said the motivation behind the plea deal was to avoid making the victim testify.
Before the sentence was imposed, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Santomartino read a letter from the girl’s mother to Kahn. In it, the mother said her daughter is now “an involuntary, silent prisoner in her own home,” unable to trust anyone.
She no longer goes to school, has lost her friends and can’t leave the home unless her father is with her, the mother said.
“A moment that should be sacred for any woman has been completely destroyed by this animal,” she wrote. “Jose Cornejo has no soul.”
A co-defendant, Joel Escobar, 18, pleaded guilty Wednesday and will be sentenced to 12 years in prison. The other co-defendant, Bryan Larios, 19, is awaiting trial.
Santomartino said the men robbed and punched a man who was with the girl, breaking his ribs, and forced the victim to go with them to the country club. The prosecutor noted that the girl was attacked in a brier patch, so in addition to injuries resulting from a violent, protracted sexual assault, she suffered more than 200 cuts.
Afterward, Santomartino said, “this child stumbled onto a golf course, naked but for a pair of socks” and begged a golfer for help. He recommended a sentence of 20 years.
Kalmar said his client accepted responsibility. “He understands and regrets everything that occurred,” the attorney said.