ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Joseph R. Blea’s criminal history, one suggestive of sexual deviance, began when he was 19 years old, but it was almost four decades later that he got hit with a lengthy sentence.
Second Judicial District Judge Judith Nakamura sentenced him Monday to two back-to-back 18-year sentences based on his conviction last week in the rape and kidnapping of a 13-year-old 27 years ago. Blea went to trial in a highly unusual proceeding at which the parties agreed to the facts in the 1988 case that would have been presented at trial and no witnesses were called in person. A jury convicted him in 15 minutes.
The sentences were mandatory, and the only question for Nakamura was whether they would be served at the same time or in sequence.
Despite a request from Blea’s attorneys, David Longley and John McCall, for concurrent sentences, Nakamura imposed consecutive terms after hearing Deputy District Attorney Lisa Trabaudo describe Blea’s history and read poignant letters from two other alleged victims. One case is set for trial in October.
According to Trabaudo, Blea was charged with three counts of residential burglary in the 1970s when he stole women’s clothing. He was sent for a diagnostic evaluation and sentenced to five years of probation.
A few months later, he was charged with indecent exposure and sent to the state behavioral health institute, which found he had above-average intelligence but some problem with sexuality. A therapist wrote that he was not psychotic but that he was “disturbed” and needed psychotherapy.
It’s unclear whether he got any, but he subsequently picked up another indecent exposure charge, and another 60-day evaluation.
When he violated his probation in 1977, he was ordered to serve two to 10 years in prison, and he served two.
In 1981, Trabaudo said, he was charged with third-degree criminal sexual penetration but pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and served 2½ years.
Monday’s sentence was for a 1988 rape, but there are four other rapes from the 1990s with which he has been connected by DNA kits taken at the time and only later tied to Blea. Two alleged victims — one 29 at the time and the other 13 — wrote letters about their rage, disgust and trauma.
One, who described herself as “a positive college student … optimistic about the future,” was raped by a man at knifepoint in 1990 and said she became negative and angry in the aftermath of the event.
“I felt like I was in quicksand,” the woman said in the letter. Meanwhile, her friends were getting married and having children. Now 53, the woman said in the letter that she still does not feel safe in the world.
“Joseph Blea robbed my future from me,” she said in the letter, suggesting that he will “continue to be a danger to women and children as long as he lives.”
Blea’s victim in the 1988 case was in the courtroom for the sentencing, Trabaudo said, but she was not identified and did not wish to speak.
Neither did Blea himself.
Longley said Blea was a respectful and intelligent client who simply wanted to get his case to a point where it could be appealed, and the trial last week accomplished that without the necessity of having the victim testify.
Nakamura said while pronouncing sentence that even the sanitized words on a printed page conveyed the horror of the middle-school victim’s rape. She said the words were painful to read, and the before and after pictures of the victim reinforced the ongoing trauma wrought by the rape and subsequent act of locking her in a bathroom tied shut with a telephone cord.
Consecutive sentences are appropriate, she said.
“I think there’s a been a lot of trauma for the victim just getting to this point,” the judge said.
im just getting to this point,” the judge said.