LAS CRUCES — A former Las Cruces Police Department detective was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison after admitting earlier this year to molesting a young female family member between 2004 and 2009.
Third Judicial District Court Judge Fernando Macias issued the sentence to former LCPD detective Michael Garcia, 38, after hearing emotional testimony from the victim, who was between the ages of 11 and 17 during the sexual abuse.
The sentence — officially 30 years, of which 10 were suspended by Macias — will be served at the same time as a nine-year federal prison sentence Garcia for the 2011 rape of a teenage girl who had interned at LCPD.
Garcia, who was in court Monday, tearfully told Macias that he’d made “a lot of mistakes” and failed in his duty as a law enforcement officer. He told the victim — who is not being identified by the Sun-News — and her family that he was sorry for the crimes.
“I stand here today as a person full of shame, remorse, regret,” he said. “I took an oath to serve and protect, and I failed.”
The victim read a lengthy statement, addressing Garcia directly numerous times. She said her innocence was taken from her on, starting at age 11, by Garcia, who was supposed to be protective figure as a police officer.
“To me, you were a monster,” she said in a courtroom packed with attendees.
The victim said that, prior to the abuse, she was a good student. But after the abuse started, her grades went downhill. She said she’d been on family vacations with Garcia, who turned them into opportunities for abuse. For years, the victim said, she was “completely paralyzed during these criminal episodes.” She said she lived in constant fear of Garcia and said he used his power to manipulate her.
“You need to understand there are consequences for the crimes you committed,” she said.
The victim’s mother asked for the maximum sentence against Garcia, noting he had access to many resources as a police officer to get personal help for sexual trauma he claims he experienced as a child.
“Instead, he used those resources to sharpen his skills as a predator,” she told Macias.
Garcia in July pleaded guilty in state district court to five counts of criminal sexual contact of a minor, all second degree felonies as part of a plea deal.
Garcia’s attorney, Steven Almanza of Las Cruces, told Macias that Garcia’s stepfather had begun sexually molesting Garcia when he was 10. And he said Garcia, who’s HIV positive, said he suspects he contracted the disease from his stepfather. A psychological evaluation of Garcia indicated he could be rehabilitated, he told the judge. The evaluation showed he’s “not a sociopath,” Almanza said after the hearing.
Almanza also said Garcia served for 15 years as a local law enforcement officer and four years before that as a military police officer.
“Not everything Mr. Garcia did was bad,” he said.
Almanza requested a nine-year sentence.
Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio addressed Macias, saying Garcia’s acts were the “grossest breach” of trust. He asked for a 16-year prison sentence.
Macias said he “rejected” the argument that Garcia acted because of abuse he suffered as a child. He then issued the 20-year sentence, noting that he could have imposed up to a 75-year sentence.
Almanza objected, referring to a previous hearing in which he’d believed there had been an understanding with Macias that the sentence would be between 12 and 16 years.
“That’s why I was upset and surprised,” he said of the 20-year sentence.
Several family members of Garcia attended, but indicated they were not ready to comment publicly about the case.
Authorities said the federal prison sentence will be served first, initially at a special rehabilitation center in Massachusetts. After that time is up, Garcia will be transferred back to the state’s prison system to finish out the remainder of his 20-year sentence with the state.
Last month, Garcia was sentenced in federal court for admitting to raping a teenage girl who was part of the Excel intern program with the department. He was arrested in the summer of 2013 after the young woman disclosed to another detective what had happened.
Monday’s sentencing hearing took place at the 3rd Judicial District Courthouse in Las Cruces.
Diana Alba Soular may be reached at 575-541-5443.
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