Crime

Former Cayucos firefighter sentenced to 167 years in prison

Oscar Higueros listens during his sentencing hearing Wednesday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
Oscar Higueros listens during his sentencing hearing Wednesday in San Luis Obispo Superior Court. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

A former Cayucos firefighter convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday at a hearing in which the judge admonished him: “I’d be hard-pressed to find a person more callous than you, Mr. Higueros.”

San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy sentenced Oscar Higueros, 40, to nearly the highest sentence allowable under state law — 167 years and eight months in state prison — following his conviction nearly four months ago of rape and other charges stemming from a sexual relationship he had with a Los Osos teen.

Higueros met the teen through a Craigslist ad in an encounter that ensnared him in a larger human-trafficking case.

Prosecutors said Higueros responded to the ad in July 2014 and paid $150 to have sex with the girl, who was being pimped out by Richard Scott Brooks of San Francisco.

Brooks, 40, has already been convicted of pimping the teen and was sentenced in January in a separate trial to 61 years and eight months to life in prison.

A day after Higueros and the girl had sex, the victim moved in with Higueros after an argument with her mother.

According to court testimony, Higueros did not end the relationship after he learned about her age. Five other ex-girlfriends testified at his trial that Higueros was a sexual predator who preyed upon vulnerable young women.

Higueros, however, called the state’s case against him a “malicious prosecution” and blamed Deputy District Attorney Greg Devitt for pursuing the case and Duffy for barring some unidentified evidence to go before the jury.

“This jury did not have enough information to make an educational choice,” a defiant Higueros told the court Wednesday. “It’s not because the facts were unavailable. It’s because they were suppressed.”

Pending appeal, which Higueros’ attorney, Jay Peterson, indicated he will file, Higueros will be sent to a yet-to-be determined state prison.

In March, a jury found Higueros guilty of seven charges of forcible rape, six counts of forcible oral copulation, six counts of engaging in oral copulation with a person under 18, two counts of forcible sodomy, one count of witness dissuasion, two counts of causing a minor to engage in a commercial sex act and one count each of possessing marijuana and cocaine for sale.

But Higueros may have new information to present in an appeal.

On March 7, four days after the verdict, Duffy received a letter supposedly sent by an unnamed juror who stated that he or she was bullied into convicting Higueros of rape.

“I recently served as a trial juror in the People v. Oscar Higueros trial where I failed to credibly perform my duties as a juror and allowed other jurors to coerce me into agreeing to a verdict I believe,” the letter reads. “... I was approached by other jurors — specifically because I was the one juror who argued with the guilty decision — who have led me to believe they also feel Mr. Higueros is not guilty of rape and were also ‘shamed’ into agreeing with the guilty verdict.”

That letter was the basis for a motion from Peterson to identify all jurors, which Duffy denied in April. The issue was brought up briefly at the start of Wednesday’s hearing.

Peterson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Higueros spent about 10 minutes telling Duffy that the prosecution against him was unjustified, saying he never forced his victim — named in court only as “Jane Doe” — nor his former girlfriends to engage in sexual acts.

“Since I was arrested, this is the first time I’ve been allowed to speak freely. Never have I raped anybody,” Higueros said. “(Jane Doe) was trying to get away from Richard Brooks,” he said.

“At no point has this trial been fair or impartial,” he said.

Duffy, before sentencing Higueros to state prison, rebuffed his statement.

“I’m not certain, Mr. Higueros, that you were at the same trial as the rest of us,” she said.

Duffy also ordered Higueros pay $20,000 in fees.

Following the hearing, Devitt said, “We are grateful for the jury’s verdict in this case and thankful to the judge for imposing a significant sentence on a defendant who repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl, and all the victims who had the strength to come forward and testify in this case — especially the 17-year-old girl.”

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