LOS ANGELES – A state appellate court panel on Tuesday rejected an appeal filed on behalf of a man convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting two 15-year-old girls about three weeks apart in Lancaster in 2015.
The three-justice panel from California turned down the defense’s contention that Joseph Kenneth Cornett’s convictions on sexual offenses involving one of the teens should be overturned based on the trial court judge’s decision to exclude certain evidence about the girl, including details about some of her Facebook posts.
The defense did not challenge Cornett’s convictions on the crimes involving the other teenage girl, the panel noted in its 17-page ruling.
“Contrary to appellant’s assertion, this case was not ‘a paradigmatic credibility contest between appellant and two teenage girls.’ The overwhelming evidence supported appellant’s convictions,” Acting Presiding Justice Judith Ashmann-Gerst wrote on behalf of the panel.
Cornett was sentenced last May to 100 years to life in state prison, with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Henry J. Hall saying that a “monster” had been stopped and he wanted the two teens to know that “none of this is their fault.”
“It’s Mr. Cornett’s fault,” the judge said, noting later that the attacks were among the most brutal sex crimes he had seen in 40 years in the criminal justice system and that it was “highly unlikely that Mr. Cornett will ever be released from custody.”
The judge’s comments were repeatedly interrupted by outbursts from Cornett, who said at one point, “Call me a monster. You’re a monster.”
As statements were read from the victims and one of their mothers about the impact of the attacks, Cornett maintained, “I didn’t rape nobody … I never kidnapped nobody … I was high on PCP. They got in the car on their own.”
At another point, he told the judge, “Stop talking … Come on with the double-life sentences, man … so I don’t have to be around this no more.”
After the judge finished laying out the terms of Cornett’s sentence, Cornett interrupted again to tell the judge that he, the prosecutor and jurors were “going to hell.”
In a statement read in court on her behalf, one of the victims directly addressed the defendant.
“You raped me. You took away my freedom,” she said.
The other victim called Cornett a bad person and said she will not let the crime “drive me down.”
Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami told jurors that the defendant was “nothing more than a serial rapist” who attacked one of the victims after she accepted a ride from him on April 13, 2015, and targeted the other teen while she walking home from school May 6, 2015.
Cornett was arrested after that attack when the teen ran half-naked from an abandoned trailer where she had been sexually assaulted and sought help from a motorist who called 911, the justices noted in their ruling. Cornett tried to flee from responding Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies, then punched, kicked and grabbed at them after his car got stuck.
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