A former Webster House nursing assistant who pleaded no contest to rape and oral copulation of an incapacitated, 72-year-old woman at the skilled-nursing facility in downtown Palo Alto was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Thursday afternoon.
Jeremias Frago-Rodriguez, 63, of East Palo Alto, looked visibly shaken by the sentence, which was handed down by Judge Vincent Chiarello at the Palo Alto Courthouse. It was the most time he could receive under a plea deal he'd made with prosecutors on July 16. He agreed to plead no contest to one count each of rape by force, violence or duress and oral copulation by force, violence or duress.
Frago-Rodriguez originally faced nine felonies, including performing a lewd and lascivious act on a dependent adult with force by a caretaker and sexual penetration of a person incapable of giving consent.
Santa Clara County prosecutors asked Chiarello for no leniency. Despite the plea deal, which offered him a minimum of nine years in state prison and up to 12, Frago-Rodriguez continued to claim that the acts were consensual, Deputy District Attorney Anne Seery said in court.
"He was in a position of trust," she told the judge, and he took advantage of a person who was particularly vulnerable, not only in her age but also her medical condition.
"Most offensive was the complete utter lack of accountability or remorse ... and he tries to blame the victim," she said.
The 72-year-old woman was a patient who was in a body cast, wore a diaper and was recovering from surgery after having arrived in early May, Seery said outside of court. She was not able to move her legs and was rehabilitating at the facility located at 437 Webster St. at University Avenue. She could not move from her bed without assistance and was confined to a wheelchair, according to court documents.
She initially liked Frago-Rodriguez, who had been one of her ongoing certified nursing assistants, she told police. Frago-Rodriguez tended to spend extra time with the woman while giving her massages.
On June 9, he closed the privacy curtain around her bed. He performed sexual acts on the woman both in the bed and while he bathed her, despite her pushing him away and telling him to stop several times, court documents state.
Later that night, the woman told a charge nurse that she no longer wanted Frago-Rodriguez to attend to her. She asked for another certified nursing assistant and the nurse agreed. Frago-Rodriguez continued to come into her room, however, as he was still caring for her roommate. He repeatedly begged her not to tell anyone about the abuses, according to the investigation report filed with the court.
The next day, the woman asked to see a gynecologist because she feared she may have contracted a sexually transmitted disease from Frago-Rodriguez. Staff reported the rape and other sexual acts to Webster House managers and police were brought in to investigate. Police arrested him on June 13.
Chiarello said he sentenced Frago-Rodriguez to the highest term under the plea agreement — six years for each of the two counts and no probation — because of the seriousness of the crimes, Frago-Rodriguez's position as her caregiver and the fact that she was physically incapacitated.
"You were a caregiver. You did not express remorse," Chiarello said. The crimes also have "a serious impact on the victim," which she expressed in a letter sent to the court, he added.
Frago-Rodriguez also committed multiple crimes against a single person, which under sentencing guidelines also affects a punishment determination. A more severe sentence is in order if the defendant had a reasonable opportunity to reflect on his actions and again committed another crime against the individual on a separate occasion, according to the judge.
"You certainly had more than reasonable opportunity to reflect" on the crimes, Chiarello said.
Frago-Rodriguez must serve at least 85% of his sentence; he has 113 days credit for time already served in county jail. He must not have contact with the woman for a decade. When he is released from prison, he will be on parole for 10 years and must register as a sexual predator for life.
Frago-Rodriguez had worked for several years at Webster House nursing home and its predecessor, Lytton Gardens, where he was accused of sexually assaulting another patient in 2015, court records show.
Investigators could not charge him with a crime at that time because the woman had serious mental issues and there was a lack of evidence. Prosecutors again looked at the 2015 allegations after his arrest in June, but they determined the woman in that case is now in worse condition, Seery said.