Former La Jolla restaurateur Daniel Dorado will not be eligible for parole until he turns 94 years old as a result of his 40-year prison term for rape, his attorney and the prosecutor confirmed on Nov. 18.
Deputy District Attorney Jessica Coto said Dorado, 62, must serve 85% of the 40-year prison term handed down by San Diego Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers.
Dorado was convicted by a jury Dec. 20, 2019, of 20 sex crimes on four women who spoke at his sentencing, including one who insisted she was not raped.
Rogers imposed consecutive terms for each of the four victims for which Dorado was convicted of sexually assaulting while they were unconscious or too intoxicated to give consent.
“This is the maximum I believe I can impose,” said Rogers, who described Dorado’s actions as particularly vile.
“Mr. Dorado tailored his approach… that preyed onto their vulnerabilities,” said Rogers. “He was highly deceptive in the way he lured each of these victims in.”
Dorado was suspected of drugging all eight woman with some type of date rape chemical, but police could not find any type of substance like that in his home or restaurant.
Rogers said Dorado has “a complete absence” of remorse and noted Dorado “blames the Me Too movement” for his arrest in a letter to him.
“I firmly hold my innocence,” said Dorado, speaking from a video screen from jail while wearing blue jail clothes and a white mask.
“I never, ever used drugs for anything. I’m still in shock as to what is happening,” said Dorado. “I have lost everything.
“I have never done anything that was not consensual,” concluded Dorado.
Three victims spoke from remote locations on a video screen, as did the attorneys. One victim spoke in the courtroom.
Dorado asked for probation, but his attorney, Kim Santini, said he was ineligible because of the charges. She asked for a lesser sentence of 24 years, while Coto asked for 58 years. The probation department recommended 44 years.
“I miss me. I miss the confidence I had,” said one woman, who said she suffers anxiety attacks and that “I still have issues concentrating.”
“Years afterward… I cannot feel safe,” said the woman, weeping. “I lost my identity.”
The oldest victim, 57, described Dorado as “an evil individual (who) is a repeat offender who needs to be incarcerated.
“I went through two years of hell trying to heal,” said the woman, who was the last victim after she met Dorado at Voce Del Mare, an Italian restaurant on La Jolla Boulevard, in January 2018.
Besides six counts of rape, Dorado was also convicted of six counts of forcible oral copulation of an unconscious person, four counts of digital penetration of an intoxicated person and four counts of assault with intent to commit rape. Jurors acquitted Dorado of three counts involving a fifth woman.
“You violated me and you had to drug me so I could be unconscious,” said one woman who asked for the maximum sentence “so he can never hurt another woman.”
The youngest victim, 22, said she woke up naked on the restaurant floor at 4 a.m. and saw Dorado who was also naked, eating a piece of cake on the floor.
The first victim said she was raped in 2009 after meeting with Dorado for a job opportunity. Some women met Dorado for employment and others met him on a dating website.
The jury deadlocked Dec. 30 on 12 other charges involving three other women after they ran out of jurors and time.
Rogers dismissed these remaining charges on Nov. 17 and told the prosecutor she could refile the charges if Dorado wins his appeal.
“He will continue to look for women and prey on them. His actions show violence,” said Coto, who praised the “brave and strong women” who testified.
Coto said Dorado used no protection before having sex with the women, which she said could have resulted in a pregnancy or an STD.
Audio of the hearing was live streamed online because the courthouse is partially closed due to the coronavirus. Online records show 17 people listened to it over a three-hour period.
Rogers gave Dorado credit for serving 579 days in jail and fined him $11,854. He ordered Dorado to pay $1,000 for a security system for one victim, and $1,350 for rape exams.
He ordered Dorado to register as a sex offender if he is ever paroled. The restitution order will be reviewed Jan. 28.
On Wednesday, Santini told a reporter “we were all stunned by it,” referring to the long sentence.
Santini said Dorado had no prior record and had used his restaurant for charitable functions for different groups. Santini said an appeal was filed for Dorado.
Part of the appeal will focus on the one victim who told the judge she was not raped, said Santini.
“Mr. Dorado never raped me. I told detectives I did not want to press charges,” said the woman to the judge.
The woman said she was placed in a police car, which terrified her on her way to be questioned about Dorado at a police station.
“I was forced to testify against my will. Mr. Dorado is my friend,” said the woman, who said police told her she was drugged and raped.
Rogers said he was “satisfied that the jury got it right” in convicting Dorado of sexually assaulting that woman.
Santini said the prosecution called a victim advocate as a witness to impeach the testimony of the woman who said she was not raped. She described that as “alarming” to do that to someone who was considered a victim.