NJ man who raped woman he thought was virgin teen says crime not that ‘depraved’
A man serving a 15-year prison sentence after admitting he sexually assaulted a student behind bushes on a West New York street was unsuccessful in reducing his time behind bars.
Danny Flores, 25, admitted raping a then-25-year-old woman on the evening of July 15, 2014, after she had left study session at Starbucks.
The details of what happened are graphic and explicit, but Flores' appeal says the judge may have gone too far in locking him up with a mandatory minimum sentence.
According to the allegations against Flores, he grabbed the woman from behind, covered her mouth and dragged her into the bushes. He told her he was going to rape her and threatened to kill her if she screamed. Then he threw her to the ground and penetrated her with his fingers.
The woman, in an attempt to ward off the attack, claimed that she was a 16-year-old virgin. But that didn’t stop Flores, who proceeded to kiss her body, demanded that she perform oral sex on him, rubbed his penis on her and ejaculated on her chest.
Before leaving, Flores threatened to kill her if she screamed for help or asked a nearby group of juveniles for help.
After the attack, the group of juveniles accompanied the woman to the police station, where she reported the crime and later underwent a rape kit examination. Prosecutors said that the DNA samples gathered from the victim matched Flores.
After agreeing to plead guilty to first-degree aggravated assault, the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office dropped other charges, including kidnapping.
During a hearing before a judge, however, Flores admitted to kidnapping the victim in order to sexually assault her, which elevates the sexual assault offense to a first-degree crime.
The judge sentenced him to 15 years with no chance at early release.
In an appeal, Flores argued that he did not kidnap her because he did not take her “a substantial distance” away or confine her for a “substantial period of time.”
He also argued that what he did to her was not “more cruel and depraved” than other aggravated sexual assaults.
The appellate decision on Tuesday notes that the courts do not define substantial distance in terms of feet or yards. Instead, distance is defined as isolating the victim in a way that increases their risk of harm.
“By removing the victim from the stairs and forcing her behind the bushes to sexually assault her, defendant enhanced her risk of harm,” the decision says.
Sentencing judges have to consider a list of aggravating and mitigating factors. In this case, the judge gave greater weight to the cruelty and depravity of the offense and the need to deter others than to his lack of a recent criminal record and his absence of a compulsive sexual behavior.
The appellate decision finds that the judge’s reasoning “is supported by credible evidence and does not shock our judicial conscience.”
The earliest Flores can be released is October 2027.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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