Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ketamine rapist sentenced to 23 years in prison

A convicted rapist was sentenced to 23 years in prison on his 42nd birthday, Monday December 14, for two counts of attempted unlawful sexual penetration with enhancements. The 23 year sentence breaks down as follows - 4 years for the first unlawful sexual penetration count with a 15 year enhancement for using a deadly weapon to inflict great bodily injury - the Ketamine filled syringe. The second 4 year term for unlawful penetration will be served consecutive to the 19 year term.

Santa Barbara Judge Rick Brown also ordered Steven Neff, who admitted attacking women and injecting them with Ketamine, to register as a sex offender and pay restitution. Judge Brown said that the attacks were calculated and sophisticated, and his actions showed “callous disregard for the victims,” who experienced “sheer terror.”

Neff's own words on paper and on the witness stand convicted him, as he wrote supposedly fictional stories about a guy who would inject women hotel guests with Ketamine, steal their belongings and money, and use the proceeds to go on a surfing and snowboarding trip. Prosecutors were able to bring evidence against Neff in the form of diary entries stating that he wanted to spy on, then rape a former girlfriend, and how he used to inject his ex-girlfriend with Ketamine around once a week during the course of their 1 1/2 year relationship, having sex with her while she was unconscious.

The first victim—then a 22-year-old UCSB student—was jogging on Haskell’s Beach when Neff grabbed her from behind, pinned her down, and injected her with Ketamine. Neff testified that while he had her down, he masturbated through his shorts. A small bit of his DNA was later found on her jogging shorts. The woman, who went in and out of consciousness during the attack, didn’t remember if she had been sexually assaulted. Neff denied sexually assaulting her, though he admitted to being more “sexually charged” because he was on drugs. Follow-up exams were inconclusive.

The more gruesome allegation came from a former co-worker of Neff’s who alleged she had been at Neff’s home, drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, when he came up from behind where she was sitting on a couch and she felt a prick in her neck. She soon lost her ability to function but was partially consciousness. At some point she remembered Neff inserting an enema into her and losing control of her bowels. She felt him smearing something on her face as well as his, she told the jury when she took the stand, and she believed it to be her own excrement.

Neff also admitted to attacking a French tourist on a Santa Barbara beach and a woman who was skiing on a mountain in Mammoth. Those attacks, however, were not prosecuted because the statute of limitations had passed.

The prosecutor [Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen] ran into statute of limitation-related problems at the end of Neff’s first trial, which resulted in Neff’s conviction on the exact same charges. Neff originally faced more serious felony charges of unlawful penetration with a foreign object but the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on those charges. Five days into deliberations in the first trial, the jury received new instructions detailing the option of finding Neff guilty of lesser offenses.

Zonen, in court papers, said he hadn’t asked the judge to issue instructions on lesser offenses, as he thought those charges fell outside the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations generally allows a longer time to file charges for more serious offenses. After the jury found Neff guilty of the lesser charges, the public defender filed a motion for a retrial, which was granted by the judge. Zonen then re-filed charges but this time only for the lesser charges.

Neff, who claimed at his sentencing to have a “broken heart and a contrite spirit,”  hoped that the journals and short stories would help sex offender treatment providers help others “who have my problems.” Neff also apolgized to his family and community. He faces more charges.

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